There has been a huge outcry from both the Democrats and Republicans, at the Trump administration separating children from their families and detaining them. The video footage aired of children sobbing, and of distraught parents looking for their children, has been damaging, to say the least.
On Wednesday the Trump administration announced changes to their Zero Tolerance policy. The changes, made under Trump’s executive order, mean that children deemed to be illegal will still be detained but with their families. There will be no further separations.
As each case goes through the court systems, families will be allowed to stay together. These new rulings are not without their own legal constraints and issues. It is currently illegal for any child to be detained for longer than 20 days before they are released into the custody of a guarding. If the court procedures take over 20 days, the law says there must be separation.
This leaves two options for the Trump administration. Separate parents from their children after 20 days or keep the families together in detention, with the possibility of no end in sight. Neither of these options appeals to Trump supporters or Trump opposers, and it is what the Trump administration is trying to change.
What are the alternatives? The DHS has in the past always chosen to lock up immigrants who are caught illegally at the border. But several alternative options have been put in place, and the White House needs to look at these options.
There is a strong leaning towards releasing immigrants under a community supervision program. The immigrants are treated like human beings, they do not lose respect and they have the opportunity. A nonprofit group would provide each family with a social worker. This person would assist each family to find shelter, work or study opportunities. At the same time, the ‘illegal immigrants’ go through a court process and are offered support during the process.
This is the way that many European countries have chosen to enable, integrate and assist people fleeing their home countries.
The other alternative is to use electronic monitoring. GPS monitors are placed around the parent’s ankles. These monitors cannot be removed. The immigrants also get a caseworker or social worker and assistance during their court hearings. This is a less respectful way of dealing with the problem but it is an alternative that is being discussed.
It is understood that ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement – have already been running these two alternate programs at a national level. FCMP – The Family Case Management Program – is involved with the community supervision program. ISAP – The Intensive Supervision Alternative Program – have been involved with the electronic monitoring.
These two programs are not Trump’s programs of choice. Pressure has been mounting on the Trump administration for change to their policy of catch and separate. The alternatives offer a more humane, supervised system, without compromising the Republican administration’s policy of no illegal immigrants.
More time is being spent on Risk Classification Systems that are used by ICE offers to work out if an immigrant is a risk. If not, they could go for either Family Case Management Program or The Intensive Supervision Alternative Program.
The idea is for ICE to run their Risk Classification System which helps them work out what to do with the immigrants. If the immigrant has a prison record, detention may be the way to go. If the immigrant has family in the USA, either FCMP or ISAP could be put in place. ICE officers run extensive interviews and need to take the time to know and understand the immigrant, before making decisions.
FCMP has been in existence since 2015. Many immigrants come to the USA to escape a life of gangs and drugs. Offering these people help and support, rather than throwing them into detention centers, makes perfect sense. Offering them help through the court hearings makes sense. But Trump shut the program down in 2017. Those decisions are now being questioned.
The numbers of immigrants being held in detention centers are staggering. 350 000 immigrants were held in 2016. FCMP had just 1600. The trick now is for the Trump administration to turn these figures around.
It seems clear that community efforts, social workers, GP monitoring and more humane methods, are the best alternatives. It appears that ICE, seen as demons in many parts of the USA, want alternatives too. They’ve asked for an extra USD 57 million to expand both FCMP and ISAP, focusing on 26000 detainees. They know it is necessary to expand alternate programs which are awaited.
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