On the Controversial Secret Border Patrol Facebook Group

As is sometimes the case when I take a break from posts on the week of the 4th of July, some big news broke.

This time, one big piece of news that broke was on the topic of illegal immigration. Namely, the news site ProPublica broke a story about a secret U.S. Border Patrol Facebook group, titled “I’m 10-15”,[1] which joked about migrant deaths and made blatantly sexist and racist comments about members of Congress visiting a troubled Border Patrol facility.[2]

The revelations brought forth by ProPublica, important as they were, would’ve been disturbing enough if this consisted of a few dozen members or a few hundred. However, this group, which includes both current and retired U.S. Border Patrol officials, is a group of about 9,500 people. To put this in perspective, there were about 19,400 Border Patrol agents as of 2017,[3] so the number of people in the group is roughly half the number of total Border Patrol agents.

What this means is that this is not just a few bad apples causing trouble. The entire culture with the United States Border Patrol is rotten, from top to bottom.

So when I hear politicians or people in general say that we should respond to this by “firing those involved with this,” it just comes across as a shallow response. It comes across as a shallow response because it then sounds like everything will get better when we just “get rid of the bad apples.” Such a response, while well-intended, seems to be blind to the injustice that this is about more than bad people—it’s about an entire governmental agency that is broken at many levels. Yes, there is the brokenness of the hate exhibited by the current and former agency employees on the Facebook group. But there is also the brokenness of the inhumane practices that exist in the Border Patrol facilities, the brokenness of the leadership that allows these practices, and the brokenness of the hiring practices that led to such prejudiced people being on the United States Border Patrol in the first place, to name a few. The problems at the Border Patrol will need a fix much deeper than simply firing some people.

There instead needs to be a complete change in the culture of the Border Patrol, from top to bottom. Such an overhaul is needed because otherwise, all one would do by firing people is hiring new agents who would in turn find themselves entrenched in a broken agency. Yes, the people on the Border Patrol need to show more sensitivity and less prejudice, but the Border Patrol itself, regardless of the people within it, also needs significant changes.


[1] Apparently, “10-15” is Border Patrol code for “aliens in custody.”

[2] You can find the story through this link, but read at your own risk. I found what was talked about here to be extremely disturbing and upsetting: https://www.propublica.org/article/secret-border-patrol-facebook-group-agents-joke-about-migrant-deaths-post-sexist-memes#

[3] https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2019/feb/01/adam-smith/has-number-border-patrol-agents-quadrupled-2005/

Language and Sense of Belonging

One time, I was at a deli in Queens, New York. At that, I was at a deli where nearly all of the customers (me being the anomaly) speak Russian. Amid some confusion with another customer over who was at the front of the line to get served, I was told the following by the customer, while that person attempted (unsuccessfully) to skip me on line:
“You are in Russian grocery store. You must speak Russian.”

When I was told this by another customer, I felt awkward. I felt like I didn’t belong in there.

People may read this story and feel sorry for me. But please don’t feel sorry for me. Here’s why: what I experienced for ten seconds at a deli is what millions of people in America experience on a daily basis.

That mindset is in so many places. There are people in this United States, particularly on the far right, who want to deport immigrants who don’t learn English. Across the pond, in the United Kingdom, one of their recent prime ministers used threatening language about people in his country who were unable to speak English. A man at a Spanish restaurant in New York threatened to call ICE on people who were speaking Spanish.[1] The attitude that I experienced in that Russian deli is shockingly widespread when it comes to scenarios when we encounter people who don’t speak “our language.”

And if I felt awkward for being told that I didn’t belong in a Russian deli I could easily leave, imagine how much worse it must feel to be told that you don’t belong in the United States (or another country you’ve settled in), that you must leave or be deported because you don’t speak the “native language.” It would be an understatement to say that it must feel awkward, just as I felt awkward in that deli. No, it must hurt really, really badly.

So if we encounter someone who doesn’t speak “our language,” please try to understand that the person’s sense of belonging is already being challenged. We don’t need to (and we shouldn’t) challenge someone’s sense of belonging even further by saying that they’re not welcome simply because they don’t speak the language we speak. To the contrary, everyone, regardless of the language each person speaks, is part of our human family.


[1] I made a decision to not include links to any of these stories and mindsets because they do not deserve more of a platform than they are already getting.

How Immigration Policy Hurts Anti–Human Trafficking Efforts

“We need to be tough on crime. We need to crack down on illegal immigration.”

Such is the rallying cry of President Donald Trump and many Republicans in particular. That rallying cry is part of why the government is shut down over the issue of a wall, as of the time of my writing this.

But it’s not just a Trump, Republican, or conservative thing to be tough on immigration. I say that because Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, saw more people deported in his eight years than every 20th century President of the United States combined. And through it all, many Democrats seemed not to care, pay attention, and/or say anything. This tough approach to illegal immigration includes people who like to view themselves as “bleeding-heart liberals.”

The consequences of this tough approach are disastrous for efforts to combat human trafficking.

One example of tough immigration policy hurting anti–human trafficking efforts is with President Trump’s policy with people who get denied a “T visa.” A T visa is a visa that allows victims of human trafficking, regardless of immigration status, to stay in the United States, to work, and to access benefits; people can do all of this while working with law enforcement on their human trafficking cases. People who have been denied T visas in the past were generally still allowed to stay in the United States without any problem. However, under this administration, there is now a new set of guidelines that endangers trafficked individuals: “But under the new guidelines, denial of a T visa will trigger an automatic summons for a hearing before an immigration judge — known as a ‘notice to appear.’ Legal experts say such a notice effectively marks the start of the deportation process.” To make matters worse, it has simultaneously been made more difficult than before for victims of human trafficking to receive T visas.[1] The consequence of such a tough approach to trafficked individuals who are undocumented is disastrous, according to many experts, because it creates a reluctance for trafficked victims to come forward. This reluctance to come forward, which is the result of tough immigration policy such as this, only helps traffickers and hurts the trafficked.

The T visa debacle, however, is only part of an anti-migrant stance of Presidents Trump and Obama that has hurt efforts to combat human trafficking. Denise Brennan, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., said that, “The dirty little secret about trafficking in this environment of 2.5 million deportations under President Obama and now President Trump’s obvious anti-migrant stance is there has not been a political will to really find people. I just don’t think we’ve been looking for trafficked people.”[2] The Global Slavery Index, which is a global study of modern-day slavery conditions by country, likewise gave a stern rebuke of modern American immigration policy: “A survey of service providers conducted by Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST), Freedom Network USA, and Polaris in 2017 found that new immigration enforcement policies and practices are increasing their clients’ vulnerability to human trafficking.”[3] Talk that is tough on migrants and supportive of walls may score political points, but it certainly does not seem to help any efforts on human trafficking. Once again, that is of benefit to traffickers and of hurt to the trafficked.

Granted, not all victims of human trafficking in the United States are illegal immigrants. As a result, issues with combatting human trafficking go well beyond confronting immigration issues. Nevertheless, one who is passionate about human trafficking issues would want to do everything possible on all fronts to reduce human trafficking, and that includes dealing with immigration policies that hurt the nation’s efforts in addressing human trafficking.

It may be politically popular at times to be tough on illegal immigration, and politically unpopular to relax certain stances on illegal immigration and deportations. However, sometimes the best thing to do is the unpopular thing to do. In this case, maybe the best thing to do is to change policies on immigration enforcement so that the United States does not create an even greater problem with trafficking.


[1] https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/07/09/new-us-policy-raises-risk-of-deportation-for-immigrant-victims-of-trafficking-immigration-visa/

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/trafficking-conference-immigration-idUSL1N1HS1T2

[3] https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/2018/findings/country-studies/united-states/

President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration: Still a Mental Health Crisis

Last week, I wrote a blog post on how separating families of illegal immigrants was creating a mental health crisis.

The day after I wrote that post, President Trump signed an executive order saying that families of illegal immigrants who are detained can stay together. Some praised the move because it would keep families together while others criticized Trump for still having a zero-tolerance approach on immigration.

However, both sides of this argument need to seriously examine the catastrophic mental health consequences that will continue for families affected by this policy, as well as continuing mental health consequences for families who were already separated.

I will start by saying that this executive order does not eliminate mental health complications for the families who were already separated. Even for families who will be able to reunite with their children,[1] the mental health implications of temporary separation will not go away; if anything, numerous mental health experts cite other complications that may come about during family reunifications such as the trauma that comes from kids thinking that their parents abandoned them. For families who remain separated (and even the Department of Homeland Security concedes that many families remain separated), the mental health implications will certainly not go away and may actually get worse. Mental health advocates should be disappointed because this executive order fails to address the mental health of families who were/are separated..

Furthermore, detaining entire families—something that will seemingly be a result of the executive order (because what “keeping families together” seems to mean is that entire families may now be detained)—also comes with serious mental health consequences. Steve Lee, the President of the Society of Clinical Childhood and Adolescent Psychology, said about the policy of detaining entire families that, “It really does influence the child’s response to the environment going forward, even if it’s not as acute as with forced separation.” Alphonso Mercado, an assistant professor at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley who publishes research on Latino mental health, found that there is a “clear connection between the status of parents and their children” with regards to detained families.[2] While most of the attention on immigration policy and mental health has focused on the separation of families, detaining entire families has negative consequences on mental health as well.

So, to answer the question on how the executive order will have an impact on the mental health of illegal immigrant children and their families, it’s difficult to find any positives. The families who remain separated post-executive order will continue to experience mental health issues. The families who are lucky enough to reunite will face their own mental health concerns. Finally, families who get detained together instead of separated will also be at a risk for mental health problems. President Trump’s executive order to “fix” the crisis of separating illegal immigrant families is not a fix from a mental health perspective.

Note: I wrote this piece within hours of publishing this post. I therefore apologize for any mistakes that may exist here.


[1] As far as I can tell, the executive order does not call for when, if, or how families would be reunified. If I’m wrong, please let me know in the comments section.

[2] My two quotes come from this piece in Time Magazine.

Detained Children image
Above is an image of detained children at a detention facility known as “Ursula” in McAllen< Texas. Wikimedia Commons Contributors, “File:Ursula (detention center) 2.jpg. Wikimedia Commons: The Free Media Repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Ursula_(detention_center)_2.jpg&oldid=307239262 (accessed June 25, 2018).

Separating Families of Illegal Immigrants: A Mental Health Crisis

I, like many of you, have heard about the separation of children from their families at the United States-Mexico border. I’ve seen the images of children of children fenced in and treated cruelly.

Activists have made a big deal about the inhumanity of this policy from an immigration perspective, and rightfully so. However, I want to use this week’s post to discuss the cruelty of this policy from a mental health perspective, because the mental health implications of these actions are not getting the attention they deserve.

Numerous studies and experts have shown that the family turmoil caused by this separation has a negative affect on the mental health of everyone in the family. Here are a few studies and experts worth noting:

  1. A recent study published by the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry noted that, “Separation from a family member was significantly related to all three measures of mental health.” This article believes that the mental health consequences of this separation need to be addressed.
  2. Dr. Colleen Kraft, the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said about her tour of one of the immigration detention centers that, “Normally toddlers are rambunctious and running around. We had one child just screaming and crying, and the others were really silent. And this is not normal activity or brain development with these children.” She also expressed about child detention that, “It disrupts their brain architecture and keeps them from developing language and social, emotional bonds, and gross motor skills, and the development that they could possibly have.” As a result, Dr. Kraft describes these actions as “government-sanctioned child abuse.”[1]
  3. The American Psychological Association has cited a “mental health crisis” that has been caused by the current policy on family separation.[2]

But how can the Untied States address the mental health impacts of this policy?

Based on studies that exist on the topic of family separation and mental health, a good start is to end the current policy on this family separation. However, curtailing this policy is just that: a start.

What’s also needed is a comprehensive mental health care plan for families who have been affected by the separation of families and the detainments of children. This is needed because the erasure of this cruel policy will not remove the negative mental health impacts experienced by those who were victimized by said policy. However, comprehensive mental health care for those affected by the policy can hopefully start to address the scars that were created.

Obviously, this idea may be controversial because it proposes the idea of helping illegal immigrant families. However, if the United States were to truly care for the mental health of these separated families, such a measure is sorely needed. Doing otherwise would be unjust.

Note: I wrote this post hours before I published it. I therefore apologize in advance for any mistakes I made here.


[1] http://thehill.com/latino/392790-american-academy-of-pediatrics-president-trumps-family-separation-policy-is-child

[2] http://fortune.com/2018/06/15/doctors-trump-border-separation-policy-causing-mental-health-crisis-families/