A nation of immigrants


Imagine this: the shouting of children in the night, babies crying for their parents as border patrol rip families apart. Inside this large detention center you are lost, scared, and concerned for your future. Outside, there are bounties of signs reading “no one is illegal on stolen land,” and “build bridges, not walls.” This is the separation of children at the border. Some Trump allies say the separation is a necessary evil and must be done to protect the safety of U.S. citizens. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the United States, also claimed the United States cannot give immunity to every person who crosses the border, according to CBS. Democratic critics of the Trump administration argue it is heartbreaking, cruel and inhumane according to CNBC. Immigration has been a key talking point since the 2016 election, and President Donald Trump has kept a firm stance on immigration and advocates for a wall on the U.S. and Mexico border.

For sophomore, Iris Gillam, immigration is a personal topic. Gillam’s mother immigrated to the United States shortly after she graduated high school and traveled through a student visa.

Photo by Julia Knoll

“[My mom] immigrated from China, and she wasn’t given a lot of opportunities, and immigrating was her only option,” Gillam said. “It’s sad to see our immigration system crumbling.”

Gillam said her mother’s story of immigration has widened her perspective on the separation of children at the border. It has made her more aware of the struggles they face and how difficult being an immigrant is.

“It’s really upsetting,” Gillam said. “No one should have to live without their family, especially children and minors. Using invasive policies, you’re terrorizing their lives when things could be solved in a better way.”

Gillam has been watching Trump’s agenda since the election, especially his stances on illegal immigration. She believes that a wall would not be useful for the United States.

“There aren’t walls separating other countries.” Gillam said. “We live in a civilized society, and if we build a wall we are reverting back to our old ways. People will always find a way around the law, and instead of making it difficult for them, we could make the legal way a lot easier.”

Whenever someone tries to enter the United States illegally, they are detained, labeled as a criminal and are prosecuted. If they are caught, that is. Most detainees are held in secure detention centers located all across America and are sent to an immigration judge. This is when the separation of families usually happens according to Vox. This new Trump-era policy is a “zero-tolerance” strategy for keeping illegal immigrants from entering the United States, according to the Trump administration. According to a New York Times report, there is no specific law stating that minors need to be separated from their families at the border. Previous administrations had made exceptions for those traveling with children, but the “zero-tolerance” policy created by the Trump administration does not allow those type of exceptions. Since it’s been put into effect in May,

Trump has since retracted this policy.

While the public is not allowed inside the immigration centers, some reporters and workers have captured photos and given interviews about what goes on inside. The outcry over this has been enormous.

Many tapes and videos have been leaked of immigration detention centers near the border. There is an issue of communication among Border Patrol agents, and the cells have been referred to as “cages” by the Guardian. According to Vox, Border Patrol agents have lied to families at the detention centers about what happens to the children and families, sometimes saying, “their families wouldn’t exist anymore,” or they would “never see their children again.” Since May, more than 1,425 children have yet to be reunited with their families, according to the Washington Post.

Sophie Smith, a KHS sophomore, has similar opinions about immigration and the separation of children at the border. While she doesn’t have any family members who are immigrants, Smith considers herself to be more conservative and adds a different perspective as an American who has never faced immigration.

Photo by Julia Knoll

“I don’t like the fact that they’re being separated, however, if they’re illegal, we need to do whatever to keep our country safe,” Smith said. “I think they shouldn’t come here illegally and try to do things the legal way.”

Smith believes that while immigrants can bring crime and poverty into the United States, the government should try to help those escaping violence. She says that citizens should not be blaming the Trump administration.
“[Illegal immigrants] often can take our jobs and hurt our economy, but I would support a [program] that helps those who are fleeing,” Smith said. “My biggest problem is that the media has been lying about what’s really been going on at the border. Lying about what’s been going on behind photos and blaming our president for this when it’s been happening for nearly 20 years.”

Albina Povarrich, immigrant from Ukraine, has been living in the United States since November of 2015. Povarrich is currently enrolled at Meramec Community College in St. Louis, and is married to her husband, a U.S citizen.

“People [in the United States] are kind and don’t usually ask me much about my life, and I feel a lot more confident here,” Povarrich said. “Some Americans are very nice and open-minded about [immigrants], while others aren’t.”

According to Povarrich, she is not an illegal immigrant, and she came to the United States through years of hard work. Unfortunately, she has no other family in the United States besides her husband, yet she said is grateful for her chance to reside in St. Louis.

“I’m from a poor family, and I worked hard to get here, and back home I didn’t have opportunities,” Povarrich said. “When I thought about coming to another country, I thought it was impossible.”

Povarrich said while she understands that the living conditions in Mexico and around the world are hard, there are ways to come to the United States legally and not face separation. Povarrich has advocated for herself and for other immigrants who came here legally.

“It is hard to live in Mexico, but it is [just as hard] to live in places like Africa and Asia.” Povarrich said. “I’ve seen so many different living conditions, and while people deserve to live in good [environments], parents need to think about their children. It’s very easy to blame the [United States], but everyone is responsible for their children and their futures.”

According to the Atlantic, immigration has been
a hot topic since the election, and the separation of children at the border has only made it grow. Povarrich believes that with time and consideration the United States can come up with a better way to solve the immigration crisis.