Family Separation: Not A New Phenomenon


The ongoing crisis of family separation has recently captured the American public’s focus and has tugged at heartstrings around the country, but this particular element of immigrants’ plight is nothing new.

As Natalie Escobar writes for The Atlantic, the world is now seeing how the rubber meets the road when it comes to how U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are carrying out immigration policy. In speaking with Lilia Soto, a professor of American studies at the University of Wyoming, Escobar explains that the practice of separating families has been ongoing for decades, if not longer.

Looking back at the Great Depression, the federal government deported nearly 2 million Mexicans between 1929 and 1936, using their presence as a scapegoat for the time’s economic collapse.

During that time, President Herbert Hoover also moved to limit legal immigration, just like today’s White House under Trump’s behest. During a five-month period, from October 1930 through February 1931, 10,277 visas were issued, 86 percent less than the 74,233 allowed by law. As Long Island Wins reported earlier this month, the Trump administration was on track to cut refugee admissions by as much as 85 percent compared with levels under the Obama and Bush administrations.

Hoover justified cutting issuance of visas by a strict interpretation of “public charge” rules, mirroring Trump’s anticipated attack on immigrants’ use of public programs. The Conversation wrote:

“Under the new interpretation, almost every applicant was found likely to become a public charge with no guidance or consistency in what that meant… Immigration dropped 90 percent in the first five months.”

It seems that Trump share Hoover’s playbook and is doing everything in his power to stoke anti-immigrant sentiment and cast blame on immigrants for all of America’s woes. The difference is that almost a century has elapsed, and so-called leaders of the free world still feel that they can demonize and ostracize minorities for their own gain.