The plight of children who accompany their parents crossing the border into the United States illegally has captured the attention of the press this week. Politicians and media types have loudly decried the longtime practice of sending children into foster care or other temporary housing situations, while their parents are detained until the U.S. government can determine their fate.
Next week, Congress is set to vote on a Republican immigration bill with a provision that would reportedly end this practice. But this policy change would likely result in the children being sent to adult detention centers with their parents — a fate that is arguably worse than being sent elsewhere.
If the House bill passed, the Trump administration probably would stop separating families. Instead, it would be able to keep children and parents in ICE detention until their cases were resolved — that is, they could be in held in detention indefinitely.
If children are not seperated from their parents who are being detained for entering the U.S. illegally, of course they will be sent to the detention centers. Ending the practice of separating a child from his or her parent would result in these children being held in custody along with their parents.
Putting a child in temporary housing or foster care when their parent engages in illegal activity is standard practice — even for U.S. citizens. A bit of information that’s been largely ignored is that there are an unknown number of American children who’ve been seperated from their parents and placed in foster care when their parents are incarcerated.
As The Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti points out, an estimated 20,939 American children were put in foster care when a parent was incarcerated in 2016, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. That accounts for about eight percent of the total number of children who entered the foster care system that same year.
In 2015, an estimated 21,006 children were placed in foster care due to parental incarceration. Earlier reports do not include this number. You can find reports for each year dating back to 2003 here.
Ultimately, a parent is responsible for the safety and wellbeing of his or her child, and if a parent has made the decision to cross the border and enter the U.S. illegally, they — not the Trump administration — are putting their children at risk and at the mercy of ICE. These risks may be less dangerous that the violence they face in their home countries, but it is a risk nonetheless.