President lied about enforcing existing federal policy predating his administration that mandates family separation
In McAllen, Texas, immigrant children at the U.S.-Mexico are being detained in 30’ x 30’ chain link enclosures inside a warehouse. These children, who were trying to gain entry into the United States from various Central American countries, were seen sleeping on mattresses on the floor with space blankets as their parents are awaiting adjudication.
Despite the federal government’s claim that this is business as usual, this is not standard procedure. Now, children are being separated from their parents in designated detention centers. These children, now considered “unaccompanied minors,” are being held in these U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities across the border.
As more Central American families try to escape gang violence in their native countries and try to seek asylum in the United States, a new Trump administration stipulation that automatically criminally charges border crossers has resulted in separating parents from their children.
Articles and photographs depict young children crying themselves to sleep because they don’t know where their parents are. The glaring warehouse lights are reportedly kept on all the time, even during sleeping hours. On Monday, June 18, ProPublica released audio from one such center in which children can be heard sobbing, wailing and calling out for their parents.
Over the crying, a Border Patrol agent can be heard joking, “Well we have an orchestra here. What’s missing is a conductor.”
From Oct. 2017 to June 2018, some 2,000 children — more than a hundred of them being younger than 4 years old — have been separated from their parents when arriving at the border. According to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 650 children were separated in a two-week period in May alone.
Federal officials said that children were only in these facilities awaiting adjudication — a process that could take months or even years — and wouldn’t be held for more than three days, but lawmakers who visited the centers said that detainees said they were being held for seven.
The Trump administration has claimed that the reason why thousands children have been separated from their parents at the border is due to an alleged existing federal policy that directs immigration officials to do so.
The sharp increase of children being detained at the border is actually due to a new Trump administration policy that refers all border crossers — even those seeking asylum — to criminal prosecution (even if they have few or no previous offenses) on top of the standard immigration proceedings.
The policy, which was first introduced in May by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, aims to prosecute as many border-crossing offenses as possible in what President Donald Trump calls a “zero-tolerance policy,” as previously reported by the Asian Journal.
This has led to a sharp increase in family separations. Not only are parents separated from their children, but husbands and wives are also detained separately. And because children can’t be prosecuted by the Justice Department, they are “temporarily” placed in detention centers under the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Trump has said that Congress — specifically Democrats — must be pressured to put an end to a “horrible law” that his administration claims predates his presidency. On June 15, Trump told reporters at the White House that “I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law.”
Top administration officials like Sessions, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen backed the president’s statements this week, maintaining that federal laws or court rulings are forcing the administration to separate families at the border.
However, the claim that family separation is a result of a law that the Democrats passed — or the result of any law at all — is not true. There is no federal law mandating the separation of families at the border. The Democrats did not pass a law that included separating children from their parents, regardless of how families entered the country.
The Trump administration is responsible for family separation at the border and, as of press time, has not taken ownership of that policy and continues to blame the Democrats.
News of the widespread separation has sparked massive outrage from Americans, lawmakers and even First Ladies from all political parties.
According to a CNN poll, a whopping two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the Trump administration’s policy separating families; only about 28 percent approve of the practice. Republican lawmakers such as former governors Jeb Bush of Florida and Mitt Romney of Utah expressed outrage, taking to social media to call for the abolishing of the policy.
Former First Lady Laura Bush wrote in an op-ed with the Washington Post: “I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.” Bush also compared the detention centers to the World War II internment camps in which Japanese Americans were detained for their ethnicity.
In response to the crisis at the border, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced the practice of “government-sanctioned child abuse” which may cause “irreparable harm” with “lifelong consequences.”
“The thought that any State would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement, calling on the U.S. government to put an end to the practice.
Washington lawmakers were quick to get to work on legislation to lift the family separation policy. Earlier this month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced the Keep Families Together Act which would stop the practice of family separation at the border. The bill would outlaw family separations except in specific cases, like if there’s reason to believe a child is being abused or trafficked by their guardian.
“Congress has a moral obligation to take a stand and say that families should not be forcible separated,” Feinstein said in a statement. “To traumatize them further is unconscionable, and I hope that our Republican colleagues will work with us to put an end to this immoral policy.
All Senate Democrats support the bill. But despite Republican outrage over the crisis at the border, Feinstein’s bill garnered no support from any Senate Republicans, adding another partisan impasse to the immigration debate. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)