While most in the U.S. were glued to their televisions this past week over the news of Hurricane Dorian, the Trump administration fired another salvo in the immigration debate.
This time their sight was aimed at children. In fact, over the last month or so, several policies have either gone into effect or been proposed that attempt to limit the number of juvenile illegal immigrants who are housed in the United States. While opponents of the policy see it as cruel and inhumane, Trump supporters view the decisions as more proof that the president is protecting our borders.
Around one thousand families each year petition to remain in the United States to obtain lifesaving treatment for children. Family members also ask if they can stay so as to support the minor during what, at times, can be difficult and challenging therapies. These lifesaving treatments are typically not available in the child’s home country. However, the Trump administration recently rescinded this policy. It informed families previously granted the ability to stay for medical care that their approval to stay was canceled. These individuals were provided approximately a month to leave the country. While not publicly announcing the policy, it will apply retroactively to any requests filed on or before Aug. 7.
This decision came on the heels of a new policy change made in the middle of August regarding children born to American citizens while abroad. Previously, these minors had automatic citizenship, even though they were not born in the continental United States. Surprisingly, this change in policy targets those who seem most supportive of the federal government — the military and federal employees working abroad.
Under the change, a child born oversees is not ineligible for citizenship. However, the new rule simply appears to affect how that child can gain citizenship. A military spokesperson, referring to a section of the immigration code about residence, said "the policy change explains that we will not consider children who live abroad with their parents to be residing in the United States, even if their parents are U.S. government employees or U.S. service members stationed outside of the United States, and as a result, these children will no longer be considered to have acquired citizenship automatically."
Parents would still be able to get their children citizenship by applying with the U.S. government. The change simply makes it no longer automatic. Interestingly, the new policy does conflict with current immigration law. However, many believe this is just the first step in President Trump’s ultimate goal of doing away with birthright citizenship. The president has often mentioned creating a citizenship test for individuals to earn the status as opposed to it automatically being provided.
These two changes occurred against the backdrop from Trump’s earlier efforts this summer, causing unaccompanied minors greater difficulty in obtaining asylum status. The president recently proposed new policies that made it harder for children to have their cases initially heard by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. In doing so, the likelihood minors will obtain this status decreases.
Ultimately, as this administration continues to advocate for a policy on tougher immigration laws, the debate between the law and morals rages on. Finding the perfect median between humanitarian concerns and fiscal responsibility is no easy task for any president. Yet, time will tell if Trump’s focus on minors pays off or hurts him for his reelection bid.
-By Marc Consalo, Director of the Center for Law and Policy
Trump Administration Seeks to Deport Children With Life-Threatening Illnesses | NBC News
Citizenship Will No Longer Be Automatic for Children of Some US Military Members Living Overseas | CNN
Trump Plans to Make It Harder for Many Unaccompanied Immigrant Children to Apply for Asylum | BuzzFeed News