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Op-Ed: #WhereAreTheChildren: U.S. lost track of 1,500 immigrant children and it is continuing to be overlooked

About 200 asylum seekers waited on the Mexican border and were then told the nation's busiest crossing facility did not have enough space to accommodate them. (Hans-Maximo Musielik / AP Photo)

Anger is escalating in the United States at the government released policy of separating children from migrant and refugee parents who are caught crossing the US-Mexico border. Trump’s administration has taken a strong stance on what they deem to be unlawful crossings of the border and has vowed to prosecute the migrant families who do so, even children.

This new “zero tolerance” policy is a departure from the previous precedent that placed those detained in immigration proceedings while their asylum claims were examined or deportation proceedings finalized. Often times, families were kept together in shelters or were released to await their hearings.

As a result of recent arrests, thousands of children have been separated from their families and placed into the care of sponsors. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Congress that within 48 hours of being taken into custody the children are transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services, where they stay in holding facilities until a sponsor or relative is found. According to CNN, the sponsors are usually close relatives to the children — although this is not always the case. That is where most of the fear stems from. 

Last month, The New York Times reported that nearly 1,500 children were unaccounted for under the responsibility of the government. The large scale of that number has sparked outrage on social media, especially amid reports that the children had fallen into the hands of human traffickers.

“It’s just a system that has so many gaps, so many opportunities for these children to fall between the cracks, that we just don’t know what’s going on — how much trafficking or abuse or simply immigration law violations are occurring,” Republican Sen. Rob Portman said in a hearing about how the Department of Health and Human Services deals with unaccompanied minors, according to PBS.

The twitter hashtag #WhereAreTheChildren was trending on Saturday night and drew thousands of tweets from people demanding for these children to be accounted for.

Trump has responded to by blaming his Democrat rivals for the “law” that he and his officials have enforced.

Immigrant children are still children and should be looked after by the adults who can provide them with a safe environment. The United States Government needs to be held accountable for not keeping track of these children and it owes the public an explanation for its negligence. If these injustices continue to be overlooked, Trump’s new policy can lead to the increase of misplaced children.


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