Become a Patreon!


Excerpted From: Kylee Verrill, “Collateral” Damage: Implications of the Zero-tolerance Policy on Immigration, 25 Quinnipiac Health Law Journal 333 (2022) (123 Footnotes) (Full Document)


KyleeVerrillThe “zero-tolerance” immigration enforcement policy implemented in 2018 countered the principles of immigration law and continues to negatively impact the families and workers involved. The policy, meant to discourage immigrants from crossing the border without proper inspection, resulted in families being separated for lengthy periods of time, regardless of whether they were seeking asylum. Images of refugee children locked in cages with nothing but mylar blankets quickly began to go viral, sparking an outcry for the government to resolve the humanitarian crisis occurring at the southern border. Though the Trump administration ended family separation in mid-2018, its effects are lasting and will continue long after, especially for families still separated. This note will aim to identify the lasting effects the zero-tolerance policy will have on immigration law and the people it affects, including the psychological trauma endured by children, parents, and government workers.

The implementation of the zero-tolerance policy has resulted in policy and public health consequences. This note will examine the long-term psychological and sociological turmoil migrant youth and families have experienced because of the zero-tolerance policy. Parents and children both experience adverse psychological effects due to the zero-tolerance policy and family separation--including toxic stress, PTSD, and increased risk of other mental and physical health issues. Migrant families experience sociological issues as well, including racism and xenophobia. ICE and other agents of the federal government also experience psychological effects due to feeling the need to support ICE's “mission” and experience fear of expressing empathy or compassion.

Lastly, this note will suggest ways how the federal government can better protect families and children seeking asylum moving forward to better uphold the principles of immigration law.

[. . .]

The implementation of the zero-tolerance policy has resulted in policy issues and health consequences for those involved. The zero-tolerance policy worked against multiple principles of immigration law, including family reunification and protecting those seeking asylum. The government can minimize the sociological and psychological consequences migrant families and federal workers have experienced due to the zero-tolerance policy by providing legal counsel to migrant families and implementing community and mental health programs for those exposed to traumatic circumstances. In addition, community programs and outreach would help make immigrant communities safer and help lessen the negative stigma associated with immigration.

J.D. Candidate 2022, Quinnipiac University School of Law; B.A. Psychological Sciences, University of Connecticut.

Become a Patreon!