The escalation of anti-immigration action that has marked Donald Trump's administration has reached unprecedented levels in U.S. history. Actions include the massive separation of families trying to cross the border without required documentation. Between October 2016 and February of this year, the figure increased to 1,800 separated families, but in just 13 days, from May 6 to May 19, 658 children, some of them just 2 years old, were removed from their parents during border stops. As usually happens with the current U.S. government, the measure was adopted without estimating its effects or taking the consequences into consideration; thus, the situation is on its way to becoming a humanitarian catastrophe due to the lack of space in the reception centers for children.
It must be made clear that there are no guidelines prescribing the separation of minors by border officials. It is a collateral effect of the zero tolerance policy enforced in May, which, for the first time, reclassified crossing the border without documentation from being a minor administrative misdemeanor to classification as a felony. This has resulted in the criminal prosecution of adults who are detained and then separated from the children who were traveling with them. Needless to say, the fact that the impact on the children is secondary to the detention of adults in no way reduces how inhumane and brutal it is, as highlighted by human rights organization, the United Nations and even Federal Judge Dana Sabraw, who described the separation of families as unconstitutional and cruel.
As shown by the figures of the U.S. agencies themselves, the cruelty of these measures has not achieved the goal of dissuading those who seek to enter U.S. territory. This can be explained by the fact that the current wave of immigrants does not comprise people looking for better working conditions, but rather people fleeing regions in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico where their lives are increasingly at risk due to the presence of criminal groups. Considering that it is impossible to convince a father or a mother not to do everything in their power to save their children's lives, Trump's policy is nothing but a sadistic exercise against human beings trapped in the dilemma of staying in their communities and being murdered, or suffering an arbitrary suspension of their human rights.
The current crisis also exposes the moral collapse of the Republican Party, the self-appointed champion of family values against any progress for women's rights or the sexual diversity community. As Rep. Luis Gutierrez stated, when they support the practice of separating immigrant children from their families, Republicans can no longer talk about family values. If we add to this the fact that a large part of the social breakdown the aforementioned Central American nations are currently suffering is an effect of the military or authoritarian regimes imposed by the United States in the last century, it is clear that the current xenophobic policies represent an ethical bankruptcy not only for the president, but also for the party that selected him and keeps him in power.
Since the administration is showing a clear lack of willingness to reconsider its actions, it is imperative that the international community – especially governments with citizens who are victims of this atrocious policy – wields all diplomatic and legal pressure on the leader in the White House to put an end to a chapter in which the physical and emotional well-being of minors is being expressly used as blackmail against adults who, on the other hand, are only exercising their human right to escape potentially lethal situations.