[2/11/19] – Family Separation and Reunification

On April 7th, 2018 Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced sweeping changes to the United States immigration policy. Essentially, all people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without proper documentation at undesignated sites would be prosecuted in federal court for illegal entry or re-entry. Violating prior Supreme Court precedent from Flores v. Reno, which declared it unconstitutional to separate children from their families who immigrate to the United States without proper documentation, the new stance ensured children would be separated from their parents because minors cannot be kept in federal criminal detention facilities. On June 20th, 2018, President Trump retreated from his policy, but thousands of families remain separated—many of which have little to no information as to the whereabouts of their other family members. As of February 2019, the Trump administration is attempting to reunite families separated during his zero-tolerance policy. The human cost of separating child from family is playing out in duality as children are being returned to their families from foster families, and in some cases, not. A video of a woman being reunited with her 18-month old daughter after being separated in Texas is a reminder of this ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. In addition to the resources provided below, the deck contains discussion questions, an in-class activity, an online activity, and assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Family Separation and Reunification

Learning Objective 1: Explain how the sociological imagination can be applied to the issue of family separation.

Learning Objective 2: Learn how several sociological perspectives can be used to investigate this issue from different levels of analysis.

Learning Objective 3: Understand how powerful influences in government and private industry are working together to profit off of incarceration.






Additional Resources

Sameen Amin and Barbara Marcolini, “Where Trump’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ Immigration Policy Began” (The New York Times, Text/Video)

Elliot Spagat, “US sees limitations on reuniting migrant families” (AP News, Text)

Dylan Scott, “Listen: children sob at US border facility after being separated from their families” (Vox, Video/Audio)

Amanda Arnold, “What to Know About the Detention Centers for Immigrant Children Along the U.S.–Mexico Border” (The Cut, Text)

Cole Kazdin, “The Groups Desperately Working to Reunite Immigrant Children and Parents” (Vice News, Text/Video)

Dahlia Lithwick, “It’s All Too Much, and We Still Have to Care” (Slate, Text)

Manny Fernandez, “Inside the Former Walmart That Is Now a Shelter for Almost 1,500 Migrant Children” (The New York Times, Text)

Drew Griffin, “The big business of housing immigrant children” (CNN, Text/Video)

Sarah Jones, “Trump Administration: Reuniting Some Separated Migrant Families Might Be Too Hard” (New York Magazine, Text)

Michelle Conlin and Kristina Cooke, “$11 toothpaste: Immigrants pay big for basics at private ICE lock-ups” (Reuters, Text)

Alexndra Villarreal, “The US detention center where sick children receive ‘the bare minimum'” (The Guardian, Text)






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