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June 18, 2018

Study guide: How separating children from parents became U.S. government policy

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Read this NewsHour story to learn more about the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

Video summary
  • On Monday, the Trump Administration responded to protests and criticism over its “zero tolerance” policy on immigration that has resulted in separation of children from parents at the southern U.S. border.
  • Nearly 2,000 children have been taken from their mothers or fathers since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy, which directs Homeland Security personnel to charge adults with illegal entry and place them in jail, away from their children.
  • On Sunday, the U.S. Border Patrol allowed reporters to visit an immigration facility, but they couldn’t interview government workers or detainees or take photos/videos.
  • About 1,100 people were inside the warehouse that’s divided into separate areas for unaccompanied children, single adults and mothers and fathers with children, according to the Associated Press.
  • Church groups, human rights advocates and some politicians, have sharply criticized the policy, calling it inhumane.
    • “Those kids inside who have been separated from their parents are already being traumatized,” said Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who was denied entry earlier this month to children’s shelter. “It doesn’t matter whether the floor is swept and the bedsheets tucked in tight.”
  • U.S. Border Patrol officials along Texas’ Rio Grande Valley say they separate adults from children as a deterrent to others.
    • “When you exempt a group of people from the law…that creates a draw,” said Manuel Padilla, the Border Patrol’s chief agent.
  • Children are required to be turned over from shelters within three days to be housed by another government agency, the Department of Health and Human Services.
Discussion questions:
  1. Essential question: Why has the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on undocumented immigrants caused such a controversy?
  2. Where do most immigrants come from? What are some reasons they have left their homeland?
  3. Why were the journalists who visited the detention facility not allowed to interview federal agents or the detainees? Do you agree with this decision? Why or why not?
  4. What are your thoughts about the policy to separate families at the border? Explain your response.
  5. What are some examples from U.S. history in which government policies were later viewed by much of the public as immoral or inhumane?
  6. Media literacy questions: Why do you think this photograph of a 2-year-old Honduran girl crying while her mother is searched and detained has caused a public outcry?

A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants’ country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

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