In the past two months, the government has taken some two thousand immigrant children away from their parents. Under the zero-tolerance policy, border crossers are arrested and charged with a crime before being placed in immigration detention. If they came with their children, the children are turned over to [Office of Refugee Resettlement] O.R.R. and treated as though they travelled to the U.S. alone. No protocols have been put in place for keeping track of parents and children concurrently, for keeping parents and children in contact with each other while they are separated, or for eventually reuniting them. Immigration lawyers, public defenders, and advocates along the border have been trying to fill the void ... There is no formal process in place to insure that a family that’s been separated at the border gets deported back to their home country together.Jonathan Blitzer, "The Government Has No Plan for Reuniting the Immigrant Families It Is Tearing Apart." The New Yorker, 6/18/2018.
Sometimes they will tell the parent, “We’re taking your child away.” And when the parent asks, “When will we get them back?” they say, “We can’t tell you that.” Sometimes the officers will say, “because you’re going to be prosecuted” or “because you’re not welcome in this country” or “because we’re separating them,” without giving them a clear justification. In other cases, we see no communication that the parent knows that their child is to be taken away. Instead, the officers say, “I’m going to take your child to get bathed.” That’s one we see again and again. “Your child needs to come with me for a bath.” The child goes off, and in a half an hour, twenty minutes, the parent inquires, “Where is my five-year-old?” “Where’s my seven-year-old?” “This is a long bath.” And they say, “You won’t be seeing your child again.” Sometimes mothers—I was talking to one mother, and she said, “Don’t take my child away,” and the child started screaming and vomiting and crying hysterically, and she asked the officers, “Can I at least have five minutes to console her?” They said no. In another case, the father said, “Can I comfort my child? Can I hold him for a few minutes?” The officer said, “You must let them go, and if you don’t let them go, I will write you up for an altercation, which will mean that you are the one that had the additional charges charged against you.”Katy Vine, "What's Really Happening When Asylum-Seeking Families Are Separated?" Texas Monthly, 6/15/2018.
We know that from October 2017 to March, there was about seven hundred separations, and one hundred of those kids were under the age of four. Which is crazy to think because under the age of four they probably have never been separated from their mother or father.Congressman Will Hurd, (R-Texas), quoted by Robert Moore in "Inside Texas's New Tent City for Children," Texas Monthy, 6/16/2018.
Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, met with a 16-year-old girl who had been taking care of a young girl for three days. The teen and others in their cage thought the girl was 2 years old.
“She had to teach other kids in the cell to change her diaper,” Brane said.
Brane said that after an attorney started to ask questions, agents found the girl’s aunt and reunited the two. It turned out that the girl was actually 4 years old. Part of the problem was that she didn’t speak Spanish, but K’iche, a language indigenous to Guatemala.
“She was so traumatized that she wasn’t talking,” Brane said. “She was just curled up in a little ball.”
Brane said she also saw officials at the facility scold a group of 5-year-olds for playing around in their cage, telling them to settle down. There are no toys or books.
But one boy nearby wasn’t playing with the rest. According to Brane, he was quiet, clutching a piece of paper that was a photocopy of his mother’s ID card.
“The government is literally taking kids away from their parents and leaving them in inappropriate conditions,” Brane said. “If a parent left a child in a cage with no supervision with other 5-year-olds, they’d be held accountable.”
Dr. Colleen Kraft, the head of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that she visited a small shelter in Texas recently, which she declined to identify. A toddler inside the 60-bed facility caught her eye — she was crying uncontrollably and pounding her little fists on mat.
Staff members tried to console the child, who looked to be about 2 years old, Kraft said. She had been taken from her mother the night before and brought to the shelter.
The staff gave her books and toys — but they weren’t allowed to pick her up, to hold her or hug her to try to calm her. As a rule, staff aren’t allowed to touch the children there, she said.
Nomaan Merchant, "Hundreds of children wait in Border Patrol facility in Texas." AP, 6/18/2018.
Here's how you can help fight family separation at the border.
If you are in Ohio: please call Senator Rob Portman (R) right away. I spoke with his office today, and they told me he is opposed to family separation and is reviewing Senator Feinstein's bill (S.3036) to halt the separation of immigrant families. If you live in a state with a Republican senator, call and tell them to support S.3036.
If cannot find consensus as a country that this policy, which is utterly inhumane and immoral, as well as illegal, I truly don't know how we will ever find a path forward.
Update: a national action/march is being planned for June 30. I hope a law is passed before then, but if not, it's time to march.