Women and Children at Highest Risk with Jeff Sessions' Immigration Policies

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions proposed changes to the Justice Department’s policies in handling undocumented immigrants hurt mothers and children more than anyone else.

Sessions announced that he would fully prosecute Harboring Cases. The legal definition of harboring is when a person living in the United States maintains three or more people under his or her roof who are undocumented immigrants. That person can be prosecuted and jailed for harboring illegal immigrants. In reality, that means that even an immigrant who has become a legal, naturalized US citizen, or someone who was born a citizen and has their family living with them will be punished under the law if their family is undocumented. So beware that any individual who allows his aging parents, or his wife and children, to live with him without their obtaining citizenship first is considered to be illegally harboring immigrants.

Statistics show that immigrants who come to United States seeking work to support families left behind in their country of origin are predominantly men. Once the family patriarch can make enough money to send for the rest of their family, and he attempts to bring them into the US without securing their citizenship first, he will run afoul of the immigration laws. For example, if a husband works to earn enough money to bring his family here from Mexico, and sets them up in his own home to start a new life, even if he is here legally and the family intends to apply for citizenship, that man can be found guilty of harboring his own family.

The policy cracks down on any family that tries to stay together. When Trump was running for president, he stated his intention was to more stridently regulate illegal immigration, but in particular immigrants who have committed crimes or who are a threat to society. For decades, US immigration enforcement officers have focused on the speedy deportation of illegal immigrants convicted of felonies or crimes of moral turpitude. Families were not the target of our enforcement policies, which are inherently cumbersome to sustain because there millions of people in the country without documentation. Some of those immigrants in that pool have crossed the border illegally, while others have been deemed illegal because they overstayed their expired visas. Through many Administrations, the government was more focused on removing convicts who are here illegally with more deference to families. And more recently the Obama Administration attempted to give safe haven to the children of immigrant parents born in the United States so that the parents would not be deported leaving the children, even if minors, to fend for themselves.

The policies that are being pursued by Trump's Attorney General fail to take into account the trauma of splitting up flourishing families, many of them with hard-working adults and children enrolled in US schools. If the presence of families with undocumented members under one roof posed such a danger to our citizenry, why didn’t previous Administrations enforce the Harboring policy? I suspect this Administration does not understand or empathize with the magnitude of undocumented immigrants already living in this country for decades, earning wages, and contributing to their communities. Immigration issues cannot be solved by rounding up people and pushing them back across the border without taking into consideration what they may have contributed as they built their lives here. If immigration enforcement authorities remained focused first on the undocumented people who committed crimes on American soil, there would be an opportunity for our lawmakers to pause and study what type of immigration policy would be most effective and humane in this new era of government.

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