Eder Gaona-Macedo of Future Leaders of America at a rally in defense of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) at the Santa Barbara Courthouse
Paul Wellman

“Sessions’s directive to separate children from their parents is an unnecessarily cruel addition,” commented Congressmember Salud Carbajal on the new zero-tolerance policy Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday. The new policy will separate parents from children rather than keeping them together in detention centers.

Sessions also intends to prosecute 100 percent of individuals crossing the border illegally. Parents will be sent to federal court, while children will be sent to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, where 1,500 migrant children went missing last year after federal officials placed them in homes.

Previously, people caught would be returned to their native countries after pleading guilty. Now, individuals could face up to six months in prison.

Rick Oberlink, executive director of Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), believes we need to continue stepping up enforcement to deter people from making the journey. While he does acknowledge that children should be treated humanely, he added, “having them with their parents during criminal proceedings may not be humane either.”

Congressmember Carbajal thinks we have bigger fish to fry, “Indiscriminately prosecuting immigrants not only diverts limited federal resources from going after serious criminals like drug traffickers and cartels, but also violates our nation’s treaty obligations on asylum seekers.”

While these policies are targeted at immigrants actively crossing the border, they contribute to the already hostile anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Trump administration and are likely to affect an already fearful immigrant community.

“This announcement will have a chilling effect on the Central Coast’s immigrant community, who already live in fear of overzealous immigration enforcement as they go to work and send their children to school,” said Carbajal.

Director of Immigrant Hope Diane Martinez, worries the community’s fear will keep them from seeking help or reaching out, “we don’t want them to be where we were a year ago when people weren’t accessing the services out of fear.” There is a serious impact on families that we should be concerned about no matter what country they come from.

Martinez encourages undocumented and mixed status families to have emergency preparedness plans. She advises all families visit an accredited center to be screened: “Sometimes there are other options, and then there are people to provide relief.”


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