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Polina Vershinina

Polina Vershinina

Policy Researcher at Politheor
Polina Vershinina has a BA in International Relations at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia. Currently she is a MA student in Political Science in Central European University, Hungary. She specializes in global political dialogue and institutional development. Her research focuses on the EU, more specifically on Central Europe, migration policy, civil society and NGOs. She is a strong supporter of a cross-disciplinary approach in international relations research.
Polina Vershinina

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The US government is manipulating migrants by not bringing their children back. How is it possible that children became a blackmailing tool?

Recently public indignation at the government policy related to the separation of migrant families in the United States has finally produced a result. President Trump signed an executive order June 20th declaring the continuation of such a policy is unacceptable. It would seem that this is the end of another scandalous and disturbing news cycle but…

It’s too early to relax. The problem is still far from any final resolution, because the executive order did not provide a clear path towards reunification for more than 2,300 children who had already been separated.

What will happen to them? According to a copy of a government form obtained by NBC News the aggrieved parents of families waiting for decisions about their asylum status in the US are faced with a choice that would appear to contradict their basic human rights, namely, to leave the country with their kids — or without them. This means that they should be separated while they await a decision on asylum.

“I am requesting to reunite with my child(ren) for the purpose of repatriation to my country of citizenship,” or “I am affirmatively, knowingly, and voluntarily requesting to return to my country of citizenship without my minor child(ren) who I understand will remain in the United States to pursue available claims of relief.” – these are the lines being read to parents!

The ACLU’s family-separation lawsuit argues that it’s unconstitutional for parents who are in immigration detention to be separated from their children — but not that it’s unconstitutional to charge parents with illegal entry and take them into a separate criminal court. All this is accompanied by manipulative tactics in courts through which people are forced to either declare that they entered the country illegally or to abandon their claims to asylum, even if they have a legitimate claim (e.g. fleeing from political violence in Central America). In most cases, the whole process of identification is deliberately postponed to make families miss their children and consequently give up on the asylum claim.

It is hard to believe but neither an official reunification system exists, nor even the procedure allowing for communication between separated parents and children. The Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement has only published contradictory leaflets showing different telephone numbers, but there is no evidence that they are functional. There is also no clear information about how long this detention can be continued without a decision. Thousands of people are uncertain about where there family members really are. These facts are more and more consistent with a desire to intimidate and manipulate asylum seekers into abandoning claims to asylum and return to the countries they are fleeing than with a government following the due process of evaluating their asylum claims in an appropriate manner.

This is to say nothing of the psychological trauma of children, some of whom are only a few years old. The older ones will likely always remember the United States of America as the country that took their parents away from them. Children in government custody are not provided with any psychotherapeutic help. Taking into account the fact that initially this policy was implemented with general references to America “security requirements”, it is high time to ask how detaining 2,300 children is supposed to make America safer.  Attempts to find foster care for those children or closest relatives living in America for them to stay with look especially ridiculous given the relative ease of just returning them to their parents immediately.

 

US officials have suppressed the mentioned facts. They present the new executive order as a big accomplishment, as though there were any serious alternative to issuing it. The old policy had strikingly low public support of around 25%. What is more, the process was accompanied by the numerous demonstrations in big cities, many of which are still going on.

Another motive behind stopping the previous terrible practice were the high costs of maintaining people in custody and the lack of available places in the detention camps. This was supported by the lack of results: in the end the flow of migrants did not decrease. Finally, these were described as temporary measures for a temporary surge. So was it a real breakthrough in the migration issue?

It is too early to rest on its laurels; incoming migrants families are no longer getting separated but the ones who came before an executive order June 20th are still not with their children. And nobody is helping them. The previous shameful practice still has its consequences.

The government should be active on three fronts: accelerating the process of making decisions on asylum seeker status, making the access through ports easier so migrants won’t have a reason to cross the border illegally, and finally reunite parents and children and provide them with the appropriate conditions for a period of waiting.

The Trump’s administration should finally understand that it’s their job to reunite families.

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Polina Vershinina
Polina Vershinina has a BA in International Relations at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia. Currently she is a MA student in Political Science in Central European University, Hungary. She specializes in global political dialogue and institutional development. Her research focuses on the EU, more specifically on Central Europe, migration policy, civil society and NGOs. She is a strong supporter of a cross-disciplinary approach in international relations research.

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