A 4-year-old boy weeps in the arms of a family member as he and others were apprehended by Border Patrol agents after illegally crossing into the U.S. border from Mexico near McAllen, Tex., in May. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Regarding the June 10 front-page article “Frantic parents fill courts on the border”:

Border agents are treating entering the United States “illegally” as if it were the worst possible offense by removing children from their parents, placing asylum seekers in prisons for unspecified lengths of time, and denying them legal aid and health care.

Yet the crime of entering the country without permission is a misdemeanor. Other misdemeanors include jaywalking, being drunk in public and driving without a license, none of which involves indefinite detention or the removal of children.

The most common type of asylum request for people fleeing persecution includes entering the country first and then applying for asylum. What’s more, the United States has an international legal obligation to accept refugees, based on the 1951 Refugee Convention. In sum, everything being done to immigrants at the border is against U.S. and international law. The people who implemented this policy (a.k.a. the Trump administration), as well as those carrying it out, need to be indicted and tried in a court of law. 

Erica Verrillo, Whately, Mass.

I am an immigration attorney and have been practicing deportation defense for more than 30 years. It might help to understand what drives these families to the United States. The majority of my clients are Salvadorans, and yes, they are parents with children. El Salvador is run by gangs. These gangs control every aspect of life in the neighborhoods where these families live. They prey on adolescents. They use brutal violence to control others. The police are completely ineffective and often working with the gangs themselves.

I cannot count the number of stories I have heard of the rape of young girls and severe beatings of young boys who try to refuse the order to join a gang. Parents protest and face being shot in gangland-style murders. I read the death certificates, the useless police complaints. People hang on until they cannot hang on anymore. It is a life-or-death situation. They arrive severely traumatized, with significant psychological problems.

Perhaps addressing some specific stories might help those who aren’t aware what is really driving everyone north. It is wrenching, and it is real. To prosecute migrants for illegal entry will not deter them. It is a disgrace that the United States is criminalizing people seeking to save the lives of their children.

Hedi Framm-Anton, San Francisco