Washington, DC –The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), and the Women’s Refugee Commission condemn a new plan under consideration to separate families at the border. As reported in the Washington Post, the administration is considering giving parents a “choice” by detaining families together for 20 days, and then forcing parents to choose between keeping their children in detention with them or allowing the government to take their children away, to be placed in government facilities across the U.S. This is an impossible choice.
At least 2,500 children were forcibly taken from their parents under the administration’s last “separation plan” although it is likely that many children were not included in the official count. The government’s own watchdog agency issued a report finding that after families were separated this spring, children were stranded without their parents for days—and in one case, for more than three weeks—in facilities designed for adults, in violation of U.S. law. Today, hundreds of children remain separated; and even when children are permitted to reunify with parents, the government’s chaotic process causes even more trauma.
“Separating families inflicts real harm on children,” said Young Center Director Maria Woltjen. She continued, “It is unconscionable. Separating families is designed to ensure they never have their day in court—they will either give up their claims to avoid separation, or they will have to appear in immigration court and make complex legal arguments while suffering from the trauma of separation.”
“KIND is working with hundreds of children who were separated during the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and are traumatized as a result of having their parent taken from them,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “This trauma compounds that which caused the child and parent to flee to the U.S. in the first place – most often gang violence and lawlessness – and makes it even harder for the child to share the experiences that are vital to her protection case.”
“This latest attack on asylum-seeking families is a violation of their human rights and runs counter to the American tradition of providing protection to those fleeing persecution,” said Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “The government knows full well that there are proven, cost-efficient, and compassionate programs to manage families seeking safety at our borders that would avoid both separating or jailing families. Living a life free of violence is a basic right for everyone. The Trump administration is hell bent on destroying the lives of parents and the futures for their children. We will not stop fighting this barbaric policy until those that seek asylum – which is their legal right – can do so free from threats and coercion.”
The threat of separation will not stop families from seeking protection from devastating conditions in their countries of origin. The United States should invest in addressing the root causes of family migration. Causing harm to children after they arrive is not just immoral, but ineffective.
Media Contact: Megan McKenna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-631-9990