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Contact: Simona Combi
Phone: 202-657-0679

Statement: New Family-Separation Efforts Will Lead to Imprisonment of Children

Child Abuse & Neglect
Child Rights
Children of Immigrants
Judicial Advocacy
Racial Equity

Washington, D.C., October 17, 2018—When it comes to how we treat children, our public policy should be governed by a simple, overriding “best interest of the child” standard. We must reject and oppose policies that fail this standard.

Once again, the Trump Administration is considering adopting a policy option that includes family separation. This time the government is considering imposing a “binary option” upon families seeking asylum in this country. This so-called “option” would force families to either waive fundamental Flores Settlement protections for children so that the government could indefinitely warehouse children in unlicensed family detention facilities or force families to turn their children over to the federal government. This is a false choice as both options would cause immense harm to children.

This proposed option comes on the heels of the administration’s horrific “zero tolerance” policy that drew international attention for prying babies from their mother’s arms and deporting parents while their children remained in federal custody. Revamping this horrific policy, which has been deemed “government-sanctioned child abuse” by the American Academy of Pediatrics, would remain harmful to children.

“Forcing parents to make the incredibly difficult decision of keeping their children warehoused in prison or releasing them into the custody of the U.S. government is absolutely unacceptable,” said First Focus President Bruce Lesley. “The Trump Administration would be presenting families with a horrible choice where children would be used as pawns in pursuit of a policy to indefinitely detain asylum-seeking families. This violates basic human rights standards that should govern policies involving children. It is cruel and inhumane.”

Lesley adds, “We also strongly disagree with the concept that parents can waive their child’s rights to protections under the Flores Settlement Agreement. Our nation’s immigration policies should be governed by what is in the best interest of the child. We agree with Judge Dolly Gee that ‘absolutely nothing prevents the administration from reconsidering their current blanket policy of family detention and reinstating prosecutorial discretion.’ Rather than harming children, our nation’s public policies should protect them.”