Double Standard: Children at the border

Sherri Jefferson is an advocate, author, and an attorney. Transforming the lives of children is her passion. Transferring knowledge is her profession.

Read the headlines: “America cages children,” “Shame on America,” “America’s Shame.”
Over the last few weeks, the media has shed light upon the detention of immigrant children, whose parents knowingly entered the United States illegally.
With all due respect, it’s no secret that crossing the border from Mexico into the United States is illegal. This is not a new law enacted under the Trump Administration or this Congress. Rather, it has been the law of this land for decades.
Moreover, the administrations of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama have addressed illegal immigration. Furthermore, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also promised to eradicate illegal immigration.
Now, everyone decries foul as the Trump Administration faces the challenges associated with the eradication of illegal immigration.
The incarceration of children displaced from their home and parents is unsettling. In fact, it is immoral. However, parents who knowingly put their children at risk of detention and separation by illegally entering the United States are also engaged in immoral acts.
To balance the scales of justice, we must also consider the impact of authorizing illegal immigrants to violate American laws and bypass the consequences. This is a dilemma when American jails are full of legal citizens who are forced to endure labor camps, work tours, and incarceration. The double standards suggest that we ignore the rights of our citizens and seek remedies for illegal citizens.
The juvenile justice system in America is broken, too. To this end, if we are crying foul and demand change, we must also demand change for our children who are detained.
The juvenile detention centers in America house non-violent children until 18 years of age. Many of these children are shackled, victims of sexual assault and abuse by staff, and are force medicated. Many of these children are denied visitation with their parents and family. Some are also denied due process and a basic education.
Notwithstanding, in America, children are also displaced from their parents via a broken child protective service system. Children are separated from their parents for allegations of mistreatment and maltreatment.
Some define these acts as a failure to provide a balanced meal. Therefore, if a home only has a box of grits and loaf of bread and peanut butter, that child could be taken into custody with no reunification plan or a failed plan.
Bottom line, the detention of children at the border is unconscionable. However, blame must be shared between our government, Mexico, and the parents who enter the United States illegally, fully aware of the consequences. They have chosen to suffer their children to detention.
If political or economic asylum are factors, then there are legal guidelines in place to enter the United States. Parents have chosen to bypass the legal system to the detriment of their children. This is not the price that these children must pay. This is akin to a ploy to garner the support of and play on the heart strings of Americans, but to the detriment of these children.
If we yield under pressure, then we create a larger illegal immigration issue. If we grant reprieve to illegal citizens while suffering legal citizens to harsh penalties for violation of the law, then we create a double standard.
To this end, to end this crisis, permit parents to accept custody of their children and return them to their homestead. This will end the separation and detention of children from their parents.
America is a melting pot. Africans came as slaves in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, and Europeans came as immigrants to Ellis Island, and a host of other groups enjoy the luxuries of the freedom of being American. Today, there exists legal guidelines to enter the United States. Everyone is expected to follow those guidelines. If we encourage people to enter the U.S. illegally and violate the law without penalties, then we negate the fundamental principles of our Constitution and its applicability to American citizens.

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