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Why are children taken from their parents at the border?

You have probably seen the news reports over the last few years about children being taken away from their parents at the U.S. border. This typically happens when families attempt to enter the country without the proper paperwork. The news only gives you a shortened version of the issue, though, so let's break it down a bit farther by answering some of the most common questions.

Why does it happen?

The basic reason that this happens is that the parents get charged with a crime for illegal entry. The children, despite being with their parents, are naturally not facing the same charges.

When the authorities put the parents in detention, they now have children who cannot stay with their parents while everything gets sorted out. This is when they use different centers for children or even place them in out-of-state facilities.

Is it more common now?

This is happening more now than it used to, thanks to a shift in U.S. policy. While it still did happen with some parents before, not all faced criminal charges. The recent change to a "no tolerance" system means that entering the country improperly is always regarded as a crime, so you simply have more parents getting locked up and more children getting taken away.

Why not keep the families together?

This is one of the biggest questions that people ask, and it definitely represents a change. Previously, even when families faced charges and detainment, they got detained as families. Part of the shift in U.S. policy has been to take the kids from their parents, rather than leaving them together.

How long do the children stay apart from their parents?

In some cases, not very long at all. Illegally crossing the border is a misdemeanor. That often just means the parents have to serve about a day behind bars. They lose their children for that day, but the government claims they want to reunite families when this time is up. There is some question about how effective this system is, and parents who get held for longer periods may have a more difficult time.

Do they get deported separately?

This is a major concern, and it is something that the government has done. After separating children and parents, they have then deported the parents. Experts note that they have no "clear procedure in place" to help the parents meet up with their children again in the other country.

Your rights

As you can see, this is a bit of a chaotic situation that can have a drastic impact on your life. Make sure that you are well aware of your legal rights and the steps you can take.

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