Family Separation and "Zero Tolerance" at the Border - What Now? (Updated post)
Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post about immigrant family separation and what we can do to protest this human rights issue. Today's post is an update since President Trump’s executive order yesterday halting the policy of family separation (but not zero tolerance) and focuses on the work still to be done.
As a mother, human being, and as an American, I was heartbroken and sickened by the Trump Administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy and its related family separation policy which took effect in April 2018 (see a short Financial Times video explaining the policy of zero tolerance and family separation here - warning disturbing content).
Under the policy, immigrants caught attempting to cross into the United States "illegally," or without documentation, would be criminally prosecuted no matter their circumstances (instead of entering into the civil court system as was the case in the past; see Washington Post article here). In addition, immigrants caught attempting to cross the border with their children would be separated from them against their will by ICE, Border Patrol, and/or Homeland Security, and the children would be turned over to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
According to news reports (here and here), under this policy over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and sent to shelters across the United States (at least 100 of these children are under the age of four), with the explicit intention of using these families as examples to deter immigrants from attempting to cross the border. Dr. Colleen Kraft, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), called this policy of family separation "child abuse."
I was heartened to see politicians, clergy members, and ordinary citizens in the U.S. and around the world coming together to use their voices and wallets to protest family separation. And guess what, it worked. President Trump signed an executive order yesterday (June 20, 2018) to stop the practice of family separation (full text here). However, the executive order made no mention of reuniting the 2,000+ children currently separated from their parents, and the "solution" in the executive order is to continue the policy of zero tolerance, but, rather than separating families, to detain immigrants and their children together indefinitely.
In response to President Trump's executive order, the AAP issued a statement noting that the plan for family detention outlined in President Trump's executive order is not a solution: “In 2017, the AAP published a policy statement that immigrant children seeking safe haven in the United States should never be placed in detention facilities. Studies of detained immigrants have shown that children and parents may suffer negative physical and emotional symptoms from detention, including anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder" (read the full statement here).
President Trump's new policy as outlined in his executive order is also likely to face legal challenges, as current law states that the government cannot keep families together in immigration detention for more than 20 days (see article here).
For currently separated families and future families that will be jailed together, their nightmare is far from over. It is clear that we need to stay informed and stay vocal. So, what should we do next?
1) Continue to educate ourselves.
Start by checking out the following list of news articles:
- CBS News, June 18, 2018, "Poll: Most Americans oppose immigrant family separation"
- NBC News, June 21, 2018, "Trump's order could mean families will be together in detention purgatory indefinitely. But where will they stay?"
- New York Times, June 21, 2018, "Trump Returns to Tough Talk on Immigration, a Day After Retreating on Family Separation"
- New York Times, June 16, 2018, "How Trump Came to Enforce a Practice of Separating Migrant Families"
- New York Times, June 17, 2018, "Leading Republicans Join Democrats in Pushing Trump to Halt Family Separations"
- San Antonio Express News, May 13, 2018, "Border agents now removing children from their immigrant parents"
- The Washington Post, June 19, 2018, "The facts about Trump’s policy of separating families at the border"
2) Continue to contact our representatives in Washington.
Respectfully call on your U.S. Congresspeople to pursue efforts to reunite separated children with their parents and to put an end to the "zero tolerance" policy. Find your representatives here. Also, please consider making your views known by calling the White House Comment Line at 202-456-6213 and the Department of Justice Comment Line at 202-353-1555.
*This should only take you ~15 minutes.
3) Sign a petition against the policy of family separation.
There are many petitions making the rounds that need more signatures. Please consider signing one or many. *I signed several. This took me ~10 minutes. For example:
- ACLU petition to the Secretary of Homeland Security
- MoveOn petition to the Secretary of Homeland Security, The United States House of Representatives, and The United States Senate
- National Domestic Workers Alliance petition to President Trump
- Women's March petition to Ivanka Trump
4) Donate money to one of the organizations working to help these immigrant families.
If you are trying to figure out which organizations to support that are working on this issue, check out the New York Times Editorial Board Opinion article "Seizing Children From Parents at the Border Is Immoral. Here’s What We Can Do About It," which provides a list of organizations providing legal and humanitarian aid to immigrant families. The Texas Tribune also provides a good, Texas-specific list of organizations. Other organizations to consider: Migrant Center for Human Rights, Human Rights First, American Civil Liberties Union, and Together Rising.
5) Participate locally in one of the Families Belong Together events that will be held around the country on June 30th.
6) Talk to our family and friends and encourage them to act now against this policy as well.
We can all do something today and in the coming days and weeks to call for the end of family separation and to put an end to the "zero tolerance" policy.
#endfamilyseparation #endfamilydetention #keepfamiliestogether
All the best to you and yours,