Benjamin Franklin may argue that death and taxes are the only certainties in life, but in this day and age, paperwork is another inevitability. The hassle of skimming through small-print disclaimers and deciding which boxes to check isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But when the forms are in your native language, the same language that you speak and read everyday, it makes this tedious task much easier.
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The struggles of the hundreds of families who face Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the U.S. border is very different from those of a normal citizen. These families are faced with seemingly infinite pages of paperwork in a language that they may hardly be familiar with. After finally deciphering the many disclaimers and loopholes in these potentially life-changing documents, these families find themselves staring at a pre-checked box stating, “I want to be deported with my children.”
This doesn’t just occur in one or two isolated cases. According to a joint complaint filed by the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association, 34 percent of surveyed families were provided with forms that already had Option 1, “I want to be deported with my children,” filled in with a handwritten check mark. On top of that, more than 75 percent of mothers reported that they had not understood what they were signing. Denied of the ability to make a decision for their own families, many of these families tried to appeal to ICE officials for a new form, only to be met by yelling in English and another pre-filled form.
According to news sources such as CNN and NBC, about 500 children still remain separated from their families as of late August despite a court order on June 26 to reunite all families within a month. This period of wait time is unbearable for children of such a young age, and experts have found that a separation as extreme as this leaves children with long-term psychological trauma. Yet today, three months since the court mandate, children still remain separated from their families as hard-hit victims of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy.
The Child Separation Crisis not only poses moral and psychological problems, but is in clear violation of legal and democratic principles. Families are stripped of due process rights, as they are coerced into following the orders of ICE officials. Findings from the aformentioned filed complaint summarize the coercion that exists at U.S. borders. 90 percent of mothers reported that they were not permitted to ask any questions about the consequences of the form, terrifyingly reminiscent of the Miranda rights Supreme Court case back in 1966. 67 percent were verbally coerced into signing the form, and 30 percent were threatened with the claim that they would never see their children again. Without the ability to understand the rights that they are entitled to and the tangible consequences of their actions, immigrant families are denied fair due process.
The court order serves as confirmation that such practices by ICE are unconstitutional. These are all clear violations of due process rights that were established even before 1966, but now, over 50 years later, America no longer seems to believe in providing these rights to those looking to enter the supposed land of the free. As long as the Child Separation Crisis persists, children and parents will continue to be traumatized while American democracy will continue to be undermined.
Uma Menon is a high school student from Winter Park, Florida. She has enjoyed writing from a young age; her poetry and articles have been featured in various national magazines. Uma is a nationally-ranked debater at Winter Park High School. She is also an activist for net neutrality, gun control, and education as a human right, among other issues.