The Immigration Policies in the United States are extremely flawed and damaging to people, citizens or not. Ever since the United States became a country, people from all over the world have been immigrating. Immigration has become a hot topic for politics today, as the policies regarding it are highly debated on their effectiveness and humanity. While it may be argued that the United States’ immigration system is strong, the evidence clearly supports that the Immigration policies are flawed due to Immigraiton courtrooms and judges, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, and Family separations.
A major flaw within the immigration system today, is the situation with immigration courtrooms and judges. There simply aren’t enough immigration judges and lawyers to help with all the people trying to immigrate. If there were more of these judges, the backlog of cases would reduce significantly. According to The Hill; “The number of cases pending before the immigration courts has increased to unprecedented levels. The backlog and increased wait times for a hearing are negatively impacting the fairness and effectiveness of the immigration system. People with valid persecution claims have to wait years to be granted asylum, and individuals with non-meritorious claims are allowed to remain in the country for lengthy periods of time” (Rappaport). This backlog of cases has increased to an astounding amount, as there are currently “322,535 pending cases that have not been placed on the active caseload rolls yet. When they are added, the backlog will be more than 1.3 million cases” (Bipartisan Policy Center). As shown from this information, the immigration judges are extremely overloaded, the backlog for immigration court cases has continued to expand at a rapid pace because the judges are overstretched and overworked. There aren’t nearly enough of them to handle the numbers of cases coming through.
According to BBC, if the number of immigration judges were increased, the backlog of cases would be reduced significantly by 2025. If the backlog were reduced, the immigration system would be much stronger and more humane for the people trying to gain citizenship by shortening the wait time. Not only is the backlog of cases and lack of immigration judges a large problem, but also there is a dangerous overcrowding of people at immigration facilities. Many people are stuck in these centers because “In most cases, children and adults alike cannot leave immigration detention centers or Border Patrol holding facilities unless they are eligible for—and can pay—bond while their removal proceedings wind through immigration court […] massive overcrowding in detention centers and Border Patrol stations along the U.S.-Mexico border, to the point that children are often being held in such facilities far longer than allowed by federal law” (Bixby). The immigration facilities are not big enough to support the numbers of people coming through, and the backlog of people is creating a dangerous situation for all the people waiting to be put through the system. And finally, to add to these major issues, immigration detention is harmful to the mental health of immigrants and detainees.
This is explained by BMC Psychiatry; “Twenty- six studies reporting on a total of 2099 participants were included in the review. Overall, these studies indicated that adults, adolescents and children experienced high levels of mental health problems. Anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder were most commonly reported both during and following detention” (M. von Werthern, K. Robjant, Z. Chui, R, Schon, L.Ottisova, C. Mason, & C. Katona). The situation regarding the detention centers for immigrants awaiting trial can be very harmful to the mental health of these people. These centers are incredibly overcrowded, with people being separated from each other and not getting the medical attention that they need. These three major issues demonstrate the flaws within the courtrooms of immigration, from lack of judges, overcrowded centers, and the detrimental effects on mental health of these detainees.
The next major issue in the current Immigration policies of the United States deals with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This program is in place and functions so that “certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status” (US Citizen and Immigration Services). In simpler terms, this program is an immigration policy put in place in order to allow certain individuals who entered the United States illegally as children, to remain in the United States with a renewable period of two-year deferred action, which protects them from deportation and makes them eligible to work.
However, this program may be potentially harmful to the citizens of the United States as demonstrated by the fact that “Almost no background checks were conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, resulting in illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds being accepted into the DACA program, including members of the MS-13 criminal gang” (The Heritage Foundation). Because these immigrants entered as minors, the program accepts them without question of their background. This can be particularly harmful to the citizens of the United States as some of these individuals accepted are dangerous and wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to immigrate into the United States. This program is not only dangerous but can also send the wrong message about immigration. The Heritage Foundation also states that “Providing amnesty and potential citizenship to DACA recipients and other illegal immigrants before we have a secure border will only encourage even more illegal immigration” (The Heritage Foundation). The Center for Immigration Studies has a similar viewpoint stating “But the real problem with DACA, as with any form of amnesty, is the message it sends to the billions of poor and suffering people from around the world who would give anything to come here.
That message says — if you can get here by hook or by crook — sooner or later we will give you legal status, let you stay, so you can then sponsor all your relatives to join you. Amnesties guarantee new, future illegal immigration” (Nunez). These pieces of evidence provide a viewpoint that this program actually influences other people trying to immigrate by essentially saying that if you come here illegally you will eventually be granted citizenship. This was shown by the Immigration Reform and Control Act when 2.7 million people were allowed citizenship. This act created an influx of illegal immigrants coming to the United States. Therefore, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is detrimental to the United States because of the people it potentially allows in to the country, and the message it sends to the world about immigration in the United States.
The third and final major issue in the Immigration policies is that of family separations. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in May of 2018, the policy for family separations was a “zero tolerance” policy. It dictated “all migrants who cross the border without permission, including those seeking asylum, be referred to the DOJ for prosecution” (Southern Poverty Law Center). Asylum-seekers who were undocumented were put into prision, and children under the age of 18 were taken from their parents and given to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Once in the custody of the HHS, these children were transported “miles away from their parents and scattered them among 100 Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters and other care arrangements across the country. Hundreds of these children, including infants and toddlers, were under the age of 5” (Southern Poverty Law Center). However, in 2018 President Trump signed an executive order which directed the DHS to stop separating families.
Today, “Approximately 5,500 migrant children have been separated from their parents by the Trump Administration […] The accounting shows an additional 1,556 children were separated and approximately 1,000 children have been separated from their parents since the practice was declared over by the Trump Administration in June 2018” (Aguilera). Currently, the policy of family separation has ended, but it wasn’t long ago that children were being taken from their mothers and fathers and separated. Even though this policy has been terminated, families are still being inhumanely separated at the borders. This practice of family separation is inhumane and harmful, and even though it’s been legally called off, it still continues. Efrén Olivares for Time Magazine stated that “‘We’ve had instances of fathers separated from their children because the last time the father was in the U.S. years ago, he got a ticket for driving with an expired license,” Olivares says. “He was arrested, and therefore now has a criminal conviction on his record, and that is the justification for the separation’” (Aguilera). While this policy may be good in some cases, small, insignificant charges are being used to wrongly separate families, causing a huge amount of stress on the parents and especially the children who are usually lost without their parents. This can be extremely damaging to the mental health of both children and parents. Family separation creates trauma in both parents and children, and mental health issues in its victims. The American Psychological Association addresses this problem saying; “Unwanted and unexpected separation from parents may have severe consequences in a child’s developmental processes and psychosocial functioning […] The intense fear, sense of helplessness and vulnerability for the child associated with forced separation from their parent can lead to a state of hyperarousal, attention deficits, depressive symptoms and interference in their ability to communicate and relate to others” (Sliwa).
The separation of families, whether it is legal or not, is inhumane and traumatizing for all affected by it. This evidence provides reasoning for why it is so detrimental to children who are being separated from their parents. Children are not meant to be alone, and in stressful situations like this, it can damage them for life.
However, there are two sides to all of these issues. Commencing with the issue of immigration judges and courtrooms, some argue that hiring more immigration judges will not help the situation. It is expensive to hire immigration judges, and it takes longer than a year to become a certified judge. This viewpoint argues that hiring more judges will not really help the situation as it costs too much money and takes too long for them to pull through. Even so, they are greatly needed regardless of expenses or time, in order to help with the backlog situation of people awaiting their trials. It has also been argued that the DACA program should stay in place. According to The Democrats of the Committee on Small Business, “Deporting Dreamers could cost $60 billion and reduce economic growth by $280 billion. Repealing the program could cost the United States over $460 billion in economic output over a decade. Contributions to critical public programs, like Social Security and Medicaid could drop significantly” (Velázquez). Not only would repealing the program cost money, but it would also “place an extreme hardship and burden on U.S. businesses, on local communities, and on the American economy. […] Ending DACA would also remove an estimated 685,000 workers from the nation’s economy over the next two years—at a rate of more than 30,000 jobs a month—leaving employers in a lurch to fill these positions.” (Heinrich). This supports the argument that the DACA program should stay in place because of the harm it would do to the economy if it was taken away.
While this is a major concern and a valid point, the point stated above for why the program should be dissolved still stands. There are other potential solutions to these problems without keeping the DACA program in place. Finally, people argue that family separation shouldn’t be banned because it can be used as a deterrent for illegal immigrants. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “The Trump administration is considering a proposal to begin separating children from their mothers at the border as a way to deter future migrants” (Southern Poverty Law Center). This viewpoint argues that family separation is acceptable, as it deters people from trying to immigrate. This is an inhumane practice that should not be allowed even if it does deter people from attempting to gain United States citizenship. Therefore, it is argued that hiring more immigration judges will not help the backlog situation because it is too expensive and takes too long, that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program should stay in place because it would cost a large amount of money to terminate it and would be detrimental to the United States’ economy, and that family separations should be allowed at the boarder as a deterant for future illegal immigration.
There is no one solution to the issue of immigration. It is a complicated issue with many different factors and viewpoints. However, I think that in order to attempt to solve this problem, the United States needs to start with improving the centers for detention and hiring more immigration judges. The centers are way overcrowded and the judges are extremely overwhelmed, and with larger, nicer immigraiton centers that can accommodate the large amounts of people coming through, and more judges to help move along cases through the system faster, the problem of immigration backlog will reduce significantly.
The United States’ Immigration system is viewed in many different lights, however, there are many flaws in the system including those within Immigraiton courtrooms and judges, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, and Family separations. In conclusion, the problem of immigration is a large issue with no real clear answer. The United States needs to make improvements within the courtrooms in order to create a more humane system that is focused on helping immigrants while also protecting the citizens of the United States.