As heartbreaking images, recordings and news articles continue to flood our consciousness, we must understand what is going on, how we got here, and how we can help.
Here’s what we know so far.
As of May 31st, close to 2,300 children have been separated from their families according to the Associated Press. Outrage over these separations has spread worldwide – from the halls of Congress to border towns to the United Nations.
As of June 20th, the President signed an executive order temporarily ending the family separation tactics created by the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy. However, the policy of criminalizing asylum seekers still stands.
Below you will find the top five questions on the situation at the border:
What is the “Zero-Tolerance” Policy?
• On May 7, 2018, the Attorney General of the United States Jeff Sessions announced that immigrants entering the United States without documentation will be charged with a crime under a policy of “Zero-Tolerance.”
• By law, children cannot be placed in jails when a parent(s) are undergoing criminal proceedings and are therefore held in detention centers in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
• Children are kept in government facilities until a suitable home is found (i.e. relatives, foster care) and as the family awaits trial. The Trump Administration has resorted to constructing “tent cities” to house these children.
Do Families Seeking Asylum have a Legal Right to Come to the United States?
• Yes, but there are reports that say that it has become increasingly difficult to claim asylum at official ports of entry, including refusal to accept asylum seekers. This forces families facing danger and violence to cross the border without proper documentation. Although there is still a potential legal claim to asylum, today, these families are charged with a crime for illegal entry. This in turn forces the separation of family and child.
• To make matters worse, Attorney General Sessions also announced that victims of domestic abuse and gang violence are not considered credible claims for asylum.
Is there a Law that Says You Can Separate Children?
• No. This is a policy decision put forth by the White House Administration for how it wishes to pursue immigration enforcement activities. Several White House officials in fact have stated that this new policy seeks to deter immigrants from coming to the United States.
• The White House Administration has put it on the Democrats to fix the problem, claiming it’s their responsibility to change what is going on at the border. However, it is the Trump Administration’s decision to criminally charge immigrants crossing the border, even those seeking asylum. They alone can end this.
Will Families Be Reunited?
• Theoretically, they should be. But it could take months or years as parents undergo criminal proceedings and little effort has been made to reunite families. In fact, the Trump Administration has even deported families even though their child remains in the United States.
• There are two agencies the government contracts with to put children in foster care: Baltimore-based Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS); and Washington, D.C.-based United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—through their Justice for Immigrants initiative (USCCB).
What is Being Done about This?
• As of June 20th, the Trump Administration issued an executive order to holt their own family separation tactics. However, the zero tolerance policy still stands.
Why LCF is Taking a Stand
At the Latino Community Foundation, we believe that the dream of a better future for any family should not be treated as a crime.
Families from Central and South America are fleeing violence, poverty, and despair, and are in search of refuge. We must live up to our values as a nation and not use children to make a political point in our immigration debate. It is wrong, inhumane, and downright evil.
The cruel and unjust actions of this Administration towards Latino immigrants will go down as one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history. As a Community Foundation focused on lifting up the voices of Latinos in California, we will not stand idly by as children are separated from their families. It is time to mobilize.
Here are Three Immediate Ways to Take Action
1. Call Your Representative and express your rage around this issue. Encourage family members in other states to also call their members as well. Click here to find your member of Congress.
2. Support RAICES, a local immigrant rights group in Texas seeking to address this issue. For more organizations to support, please click here.
3. Attend a Local Rally: LCF is partnering for this Saturday’s June 23rd Families Belong Together Rally in San Francisco. A nationwide rally has also now been set for Saturday June 30th in Washington D.C., and across the country. Sign-up here for more information.
For further reading and a deeper historical context on the topic, please read:
“The Trump administration’s separation of families at the border, explained” by Dara Lind at Vox
“Family separations at the border: How did we get here?” by David Lauter and Jazmine Ulloa at the Los Angeles Times
“Why Are Families Being Separated at the Border? An Explainer” by Tim O’Shea and Theresa Cardinal Brown at the Bipartisan Policy Center
“Trump keeps making it harder for people to seek asylum legally” by Dara Lind at Vox
This is not over yet.
We hope to see you on Saturday, June 23rd at the rally. Now more than ever, we must demand the reunification of families and stop the criminalization of immigrant communities. There is no plan for how the Government plans to reunite children with their families and the new Executive Order jails children alongside their parents. This is not the kind of progress we seek.