On April 6, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would be implementing a “zero-tolerance” policy for those who entered the country illegally: simply put, anyone — including families — who crosses the Southwest border or attempts to cross the border is subject to criminal prosecution and deportation. Anyone who is charged is jailed, and their children are taken away from them.
IS THIS NEW?
Unfortunately, family separation is not new. During the Obama administration, the government’s lack of consistent mechanisms for identifying and tracking family members result in family members being detained or removed separately and often losing contact with each other. Because the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies currently have little policy guidance on humanitarian considerations during enforcement actions, many families were needlessly torn apart.
What is new is the practice of ripping children away from their parents at the border. That's what's happening now as a result of the "zero-tolerance" policy
In previous administrations, parents who were caught at the border were allowed to stay with their children in shelters while their immigration and asylum cases were being adjudicated. Sometimes they were ultimately removed from the U.S., and other times they were able to secure asylum. But the point is that they were allowed to stay together.
Under the new Trump policy, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“border patrol”) removes the children from their parents and places them in the custody of ORR, designating them as “unaccompanied minors”. Simply put: these children are being made unaccompanied minors by the Trump administration, even though they came here with their parents.
This is more than bad: it’s appalling.
In the two weeks since the policy was implemented, over 600 children have already been ripped away from their parents. That includes babies as young as 18 months old being ripped from their mother’s arms and being placed in shelters, with parents not knowing where their children are or whether they are doing ok.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the damage to children by separating them from their parents is severe, and includes depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Right now, the Trump administration is causing hundreds of immigrant children severe damage all for the sake of enforcing a xenophobic agenda.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
There’s a lot going on and there’s always risk for things being tangled up and misinformation to spread. Here are the best ways for you to get involved:
First, focus on family separation: The Trump administration’s actions are inhumane, unnecessary, and cruel. We cannot allow this policy to fall to the wayside as new headlines and stories come out. Avoid using the hashtag #WhereAreTheChildren and instead centralize families in your message by using#FamiliesBelongTogether.
Second, you can call your Senators and Representative to tell them you want them to put a stop to it. While we won't be able to really stop the harm being done until we remove Trump from office, Members of Congress need to be speaking out against what’s happening to immigrant families and demand that the Trump administration put an end to this policy. We’ve included a call script below.
Third, connect with the experts on this issue. If you'd like more information about what's going on, we encourage you to look at the resources put together by our friends at Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) and the Women's Refugee Commission, who are the experts when it comes to unaccompanied minors.
Kids In Need of Defense
Women’s Refugee Commission
THE BOTTOM LINE
Much of these issues stem from pre-existing problems in our immigration system: last week, the ACLU released a report regarding horrific abuse of immigrant children by CBP between 2009 and 2014. That said, the Trump administration’s actions are an escalation of an already bad system and has the potential to cause long lasting harm. No one in this administration can be trusted to prioritize the wellbeing of immigrant families and children.
Your Members of Congress need to speak out against the Trump administration’s cruel separation of children and families and urge them to end this policy.
Find out if your elected officials have already spoken out. If not, urge them to do so as soon as possible. Regardless of party, the Trump administration’s actions deserve universal condemnation.
If they’ve already spoken out, urge them to support legislation that would help reduce harm being caused to children and families.
In both the House and Senate, there is the Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act, which strengthens protections for immigrant families while they are in ICE custody.