Immigration ABC’s

             IMMIGRATION ABC’S


Asylum Seekers come to the US fleeing danger in their home countries.  In recent years, most people seeking asylum in the US have come from the Northern Triangle of Central America, which includes Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.  Most are fleeing gangs and sexual violence from which their own governments are unable to protect them.


Minor immigrants who came to this country underage and have been raised in the U.S. as children of undocumented parents.   Under President Obama the DACA executive order protected these young noncitizens from deportation.  DACA came out of the failure of Congress to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Act (DREAM). In 2017 President Trump abolished the DACA program leaving these long term undocumented residents vulnerable to deportation to their parents’ home countries.  In November 2019 the Supreme Court heard arguments in a challenge by DACA recipients asking for its reinstatement. 


The imprisonment of mothers and their minor children in immigrant detention centers.  There are currently no facilities in which entire families are detained, although a group of men who had been reunited with their children after the separations in spring of 2018 were held at the Karnes County Residential Center with their sons for about six months later that year.


The number of children separated from their parents at the border increased sharply after the Zero Tolerance policy went into effect between April and June of 2018.  Children were taken into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).  Some were held in detention facilities while others were placed with foster families. Although the policy was officially terminated in June 2018, there are still many children who have not been reunited with their parents. The impact of child separation was found by a congressional study to be extremely harmful, traumatic and chaotic. 

I C E 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the law enforcement branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  ICE is the agency charged with apprehending undocumented immigrants at the border and at workplaces and homes within the US and also oversees detention and deportation.


Immigrant detention has greatly expanded since 2014.  A surge in unaccompanied minors during the Obama administration led to a policy of using detention, including family detention, as a way to deter people from coming to the US.  The majority of immigrant detention centers in the US are run by private, for-profit corporations such as Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group.


Another aspect of the Trump era policy of Zero Tolerance is increasingly aggressive enforcement of immigration law throughout the US, with raids on workplaces and in immigrant neighborhoods. Minors arriving at border  hoping to reunify with family are detained in immigration jails for longer periods because their relatives fear exposure and arrest by ICE if they try to claim them. 


The policy of forcing asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while they await their hearings in immigration court.  This policy has been widely criticized for putting the lives of vulnerable migrants at risk as they wait in dangerous and unhealthy conditions, and for violating the rights of asylum seekers under both US and international law.


This term is used to refer to cities in which local law enforcement do not question people about their immigration status in the course of their duties, nor do they hold people in custody when requested to do so by ICE.  Such policies are based on the fact that when undocumented people are afraid to report crimes to law enforcement it makes the whole community less safe.


The term “unaccompanied minor” is used to refer to youth under the age of 18 who have come to the US on their own, or to those who travelled with an adult other than their parent from whom they have been separated at the border.  Many unaccompanied minors travel to the US with the intention of reuniting with family members already residing here.


In the spring of 2018 the Trump administration instituted a policy of Zero Tolerance (no more asylum seekers and no more undocumented residents in the USA).  The government has tried to close the border to all migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border, even those requesting asylum.  They are presumed to be criminals.  Under Zero Tolerance the government separated children from their parents or caretakers upon arrival at the border.  Separations also occurred when ICE police raided immigrant neighborhoods and arrested undocumented residents.