Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents after being apprehended at the border as part of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy toward illegal immigration. The children have been placed in warehouse-like centers, including a former Wal-Mart in Brownsville, Texas, where nearly 1,500 boys are currently being held. Reporters who have toured the facilities where families are separated have described hundreds of children waiting in metal enclosures with concrete floors.
1) Contact our members of Congress. Let them know that you oppose this needless cruelty and tell them to pass legislation now that will help reunite children already taken from their parents and also prohibit future removals. Click here for their contact information.
2) Support organizations that provide legal and humanitarian assistance to immigrant families that are being broken apart. Click on the links below for recommended organizations.
- The administration’s decision to separate families is a new, discretionary choice. It is not required under current law and federal legislation is not required to end it.
- The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who visited one of the facilities said that the zero-tolerance policy separating families at the U.S.-Mexican border creates “toxic stress” and amounts to child abuse.
- The United Nations human rights office called this new practice a serious violation of the rights of children and demanded an immediate halt; Catholic Bishops denounced the practice as immoral; the American Psychological Association warned that the separations threaten the mental and physical health of the children.
- Immigration advocacy groups and attorneys have warned that there is not a clear system to reunite families. For example, if a parent is deported there is no clear way to ensure that their child is deported with them.
In April 2018, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero-tolerance” policy. Under the new policy, every immigrant who crosses the border illegally, even those seeking asylum, is subject to criminal prosecution. Since children are not allowed to accompany a parent to jail, people who crossed illegally with children had their children taken away. According to the Administration, 1,995 children were separated from their parents between April 19 and May 31, 2018.
In 2014, the Obama administration was roundly criticized for detaining hundreds of families and unaccompanied minors crossing the border. The federal courts quickly curtailed the practice.
Despite mixed messages from the Administration, federal law does not require the separation of children from their parents.
Immigrants, even children, have no guarantee of legal representation as they pursue asylum or face deportation. Most do not know their rights or speak English well enough to represent themselves. In 75 percent of cases where children had counsel, an immigration judge determined they had a strong enough claim for asylum or humanitarian protection and allowed them to stay in the United States.
SIAN Contact: Leigh Cobb
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