Recently published reports have painted a nefarious picture of a crisis emerging on our nation’s borders: migrant parents are being separated from their children at alarming rates, another facet of the Trump-era deportation machine.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit on March 9, 2018, taking aim at the Trump administration’s deplorable practice of separating parents and children seeking asylum in the United States. The suit represents parents who have had their children separated from them without a hearing proving whether or not they are fit to care for them.
The Los Angeles Times reported that migrant rights groups have found the practice to be spreading, driving a wedge into families who are often fleeing domestic violence and political turmoil in their home countries.
The Hope Border Institute surveyed attorneys representing 90 asylum seekers in the El Paso area between June and November 2017 and found 94% had clients separated from their children. Lawyers contacted for the Hope Border Institute report told The LA Times they had seen at least 70 cases of parents charged and separated from their children during the past six months.
Immigrant rights advocates have denounced the practice, arguing that the informal policy attempts to force parents to self-deport to reunite with their children. When asked at a Senate hearing if the Trump administration has a policy of separating families at the border, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claimed no formal policy exists. However, she did say that “we’re looking at a variety of ways to enforce our laws to discourage parents from bringing their children here illegally.”
Parents escaping deadly and chaotic situations are forced to go the distance for their children. However, this has not stopped the White House from ramping up prosecutions of migrant families crossing the border, the Los Angeles Times further reports.
In Arizona, the Tucson-based Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Project saw 213 such cases last year, an increase from the 190 cases the year before. Legal director Laura St. John said the group has already served 23 separated families this year.
“Whether or not the Trump administration wants to call this a ‘policy,’ it certainly is engaged in a widespread practice of tearing children away from their parents. A national class-action lawsuit is appropriate because this is a national practice,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Such a practice, formal or otherwise, diminishes America’s’ reputation as a beacon of hope for refugees around the world. We should open our arms for those vulnerable, abused, and exploited people who attempt to protect their children, sometimes at great peril. In these dark times, it is shameful enough that deporting undocumented immigrants is a priority of our federal resources. Separating families, seemingly without due process, adds even more trauma and inhumanity to the abhorrent mass deportation agenda.