Statement: Administration’s Cruel Policies Endanger Immigrant ChildrenChildren of Immigrants
First Focus on Children condemns the Trump Administration’s decision to continue separating and imprisoning families in U.S. detention centers rather than releasing them to satisfy a court order to free children. The deadline for release passed yesterday.
“The Administration’s policies toward children fleeing violence and who are seeking asylum has been one of contempt, disregard and purposeful cruelty. The American people overwhelmingly opposed their policies of family separation and locking kids in cages,” said First Focus on Children President Bruce Lesley. “Yet now, the Administration is demanding a brutal and barbaric choice that requires asylum-seeking families to choose either family separation or for their innocent children to remain locked behind bars indefinitely. Neither of these is in the best interest of the child. Our nation is better than this. Children who are in need and are reaching out to us deserve our help and protection from harm — not intentional cruelty.”
Due to the dangers presented by COVID-19, Judge Dolly M. Gee of California ordered a swift release of children held in the country’s three Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers by July 27. However, the judge’s jurisdiction extends only to children per the Flores Settlement Agreement. A separate lawsuit challenging ICE’s detention of families during the pandemic was rejected by the U.S. District Court of D.C., and the Trump Administration has chosen to continue to detain parents despite the negative consequences that result from forcing parents to choose between releasing their children to a sponsor in the United States or remain locked up as a family.
Children have long been the victims of the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda. From the “zero-tolerance policy” to the recent attacks on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the children continue to suffer, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.
The Administration also continues to quietly deport unaccompanied minors without processing their cases for asylum. Recent reports exposed that these children, as young as one-year-old, are being held in hotels for weeks by a government transportation contractor before being deported to their home countries. This decision has upended traditional immigration protocols in which unaccompanied minors are usually transferred to government shelters with personnel trained to care for them and ultimately released to a parent or appropriate sponsor. The Trafficking Victims and Protection Act also mandates that unaccompanied minors are properly screened for credible fear concerns and given access to legal counsel. The problematic transfer of these kids to hotels, their supervision by an ill-equipped contractor with little oversight, and their expeditious removal represents an utter disregard for the well-being of children. The failure to grant these minors their legal rights at such a crucial time represents cruelty in the highest form.
We urge ICE to release families and children together out of concern for their health and well-being. Detention and family separation create long-lasting psychological effects on children and these are being compounded by the threat of the novel coronavirus. We also demand an end to the fast-tracking of deportations of children without the chance to plead their cases for asylum. Putting the already imperiled at further risk both in detention centers and in their home countries is unacceptable.