On May 7, 2018, the Trump Administration announced its “Zero Tolerance Policy,” a brutal and ineffective form of deterrence to families seeking safety, under which families arriving at the border would be separated. Parents would be held in adult detention facilities and prosecuted for illegal entry—despite exercising their lawful right to seek asylum—while children would be reclassified as unaccompanied and placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
From May to July 2018, at least 2,800 immigrant and refugee children were separated from their parents after crossing into the U.S. seeking safety. The Administration implemented the policy with no plan in place to connect or reunite these children with their parents and ultimately deported hundreds of parents without their children. The remote and scattered locations of the parents and children, gaining access, collecting data, the moving target of where they were detained or released, and the challenge of expeditiously informing adults and children of their rights created enormous obstacles to helping families access the asylum system.