SMU Dedman School of Law’s Natalie Nanasi researches and teaches on issues relating to immigrant women and children and has volunteered at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, which houses more than 1,500 teens apprehended at the southern border.
Nanasi insists the emergency migrant shelter must not become another prison for migrant youth in the margins.
Pragmatism supports providing aid to our neighbors in Central America; financial support for these countries may stem the tide of migrants. But it is also the right thing, the moral thing, to do.Natalie Nanasi
She offered four ways for addressing this humanitarian crisis:
1. Release the children from the decompression center as efficiently as possible. “Every boy I spoke to … has a family member in the United States that he longs to reunite with. Vetting of these sponsors ensures that kids are released to safe adults, but every effort must be made to expedite the process,” Nanasi said.
2. Care should be taken that this decompression center remains more like a shelter than a prison. “I have represented immigrants detained by law enforcement in this country and can safely say that the Dallas Convention Center is not, and does not feel like a jail… But strict rules are already in place, and it is not difficult to imagine a path that leads to lockdowns and a more combative, custodial relationship.”
3. Sites like the Dallas emergency migrant shelter should be temporary. “Volunteers are moving mountains to make the Convention Center as comfortable as possible… But the facility does not compare to a licensed shelter that affords privacy, safety, and critical services such as mental health counseling. Pop-up decompression centers cannot become the norm,” she said.
4. We as a country must rediscover our compassion. “Pragmatism supports providing aid to our neighbors in Central America; financial support for these countries may stem the tide of migrants. But it is also the right thing, the moral thing, to do,” Nanasi said.
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