by Karly Grossman
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in his public announcement of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy (a month into making it official and a year after “piloting” the policy) equated parents fleeing violence and trying to save their children’s lives with human traffickers. “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border,” he said. In a recent TV appearance, the Attorney General of Washington State said that, in interviews for the multi-state lawsuit aiming to stop the systematic separation of asylum-seeking parents and children, 4 out of the 5 separated mothers he spoke with reported being told by ICE officials that their children would be “put up for adoption in the United States, and [they] would be deported.”
The administration is under a federal court order to reunite the families they’ve torn apart, yet their own reported numbers of separated children in their custody continue to rise. After claiming his agency could locate and match separated children and parents “with a stroke on a keyboard,” Secretary Alex Azar’s Health & Human Services (who’s responsible for the separated children) is now telling the federal court that they cannot meet the deadline for reuniting “tender age” children (5 years old and under) with their parents. These are the most vulnerable of the children, and HHS reports there are only around 100 of them. They’ve had two weeks. There is no “one keystroke” remedy, and at least 19 parents of these very young children have already been deported. The government asked the federal court for “clarity” on the “question” of whether the deported parents and their children need to be reunited at all. (The answer was yes.)
It is abundantly and painfully clear that this is not an issue of poor planning or ineptitude in the implementation of an awful policy. That would be infuriating enough, and they would still be culpable for the trauma they’ve inflicted. The truth behind the cruel and illegal acts being perpetrated upon our fellow human beings - in our names – is much uglier. The reason there was no plan for reunification is that this inhumane, “get tough” policy of “deterrence” rests upon a plan of permanent separation.
Children brought into the country by smugglers are not returned to the smugglers. Temporary separation while Mom or Dad handles a bogus misdemeanor charge would not be an effective deterrent. Deporting parents without their children and with little to no hope of ever seeing them again? It’s not hard to see how a nativist, racist government with no qualms about trampling on basic human rights could see that as just the right amount of deranged cruelty to do the job.
Court orders are important and can cause monumental change, but we have a government right now that shows no respect for judicial authority with which it disagrees. Our government never intended to reunite the families they tore apart, and they cannot be trusted – even under court order – to do so. It is on all of us to make sure every separated child is returned to their family, that families are not summarily detained while their cases are pending, and that as many of them as possible (if not all) have access to the legal services and representation they need.
They thought we wouldn’t notice. They thought we wouldn’t care. Let us prove them wrong.
Here are two great ways to help. Please leave other suggestions in the comments.
RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) Texas is the largest immigrant legal services provider in Texas. They have established a Bond Fund which they are using to secure the release of detained parents and assist them in traveling to whatever far flung corner of the country their kids have been sent to so they can wait there until their asylum case is resolved. RAICES is also providing legal services to a huge number of separated parents, both in and out of detention.
LEARN MORE HERE: www.raicestexas.org
DONATE HERE: www.actionnetwork.org/fundraising/bondfund
The Immigrant Justice Campaign aims “to increase access to legal counsel for thousands of immigrants held in detention centers.” They are looking for volunteers “with a wide variety of skills to help defend detained immigrants – lawyers, interpreters, mental health professionals and other volunteers who play critical roles in making this work successful.”
SIGN UP HERE: www.immigrationjustice.us/signupproxy