GeneralLos Niños Liminales: All you need to know about...

Los Niños Liminales: All you need to know about the separation of families on the Mexican Border


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by Benedicta Denteh

The bond between a parent and child is in many ways inseparable. They depend on each other for comfort, security and happiness – essential for the growth and frameworks in which can create schemas for the ideas of healthy relationships. It is not wonder then that the current acceleration of the number of families being split in the US has caused uproar amongst families, the general public and world leaders.

Since autumn of 2017, there has been a surplus of families from Central America being separated on the US border. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, roughly three thousand families have been separated in the last year, the highest surge being during May 2018 and quickly rising. The US Government separating families who seek to cross over the border illegally is not a new occurrence. Even in Obama’s administrations, the government had sought to decrease the number of illegal immigrants from entering the US. However it has now become a crisis.

The Trump administration separating families who illegally cross the US-Mexican border (image source: vox)

In 2014 there were hundreds of immigrant families held in detention centres. The federal courts had a limit on the time that families could be held for i.e. after a while they could leave and disappear which led to court dates being missed. Trump on the other hand stepped up the policy, and in doing so, more children have been separated from the families.


As there have been tighter border controls more and more families are being tracked and stopped at the border. Here they are checked and put into jail whilst their children are put into immigration custody. Usually, unaccompanied children are sent to the Office of Refugee Resettlement where they are then referred to foster parents for the time being, until their parents are released. In some circumstances children are given to the closet relative in the country. However, due to the high rising number of being placed in the immigration centre, the systems are overwhelmed. Children are being moved unnecessarily or being kept away from families because of  overloaded systems and workers. Something the UK is not unfamiliar with.


Following on from Trump’s goals to decease (essentially stop) illegal immigration into the US from other parts of America, namely Central and South, policies were strengthened to stop the constant flow. Main reasons for this hard crackdown on immigration was pretty much to stop more Mexican drug cartels and MS-13 gangs, which Trump vowed to stop at the beginning of his term, from entering into the US.

border patrol guarding Central America immigrants (image source: vanityfair)

A lot of criticism has followed the alarming rate of family separations. One being that many minors (children under five, including babies) have been separated from their parents. The negative effects of prolonged separation from primary caregivers can be tricky to reverse for those of such a young age.
Secondly, even immigrants who are trying to seek asylum, are finding it very difficult to do just that as even their families are being separated (though these cases are not as widespread as ones of simple illegal statuses). The American Civil Liberties Union Report have reported that there have been alleged cases physical, verbal, psychological, emotional and sexual abuse that these children are having to deal with whilst being held in immigration custody by the authorities of the Border Control. This kind of neglect and barbarous treatment was not unknown before the steep rise of immigrant children in custody but of course following the rise, the numbers are cases have accelerated.

On the 20thof June, Trump accordingly reversed some of his migrant separation policies with the aim that families will begin to be reunited and less will be separations but whilst keeping the border strong. This change that Trump’s administration were adamant in not changing at first may have been triggered by the commotion images and video clips of distressed children and desperate parents in search for their young has caused. A federal judge of California also ordered halt on estrangements between parents and minors in the President’s first major harsh criticism.

Parents also have the option to plead guilty in court for illegal entry into the States in order to get released more quickly (possibly) and re-join their children however this choice makes re-entry in the future into the US a lot more difficult.

There are still hundreds of children to be reunited with their loved ones however hopefully following the recent changing policies hopefully less families will be split and eventually all members of families will be united.

 Benedicta is currently studying Arabic and French at the University of Manchester and hopes to become a linguist and broadcast journalist in the future. In her free time, she enjoys learning about African development and issues to do with race, society and culture. Benedicta also takes pleasure in acting and travelling. 
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