National Day of Action – #KeepFamiliesTogether
Today is a second National Day of Action, on family separations, initiated by We Belong Together and other partners. You can join local actions or get further information here. The message is simple: stop separating children from their parents.
Like everyone, we have been moved by the issue, continued media exposure of what is actually taking place, the experiences of the parents and of the children themselves. We’re inspired by the many calls from around the country of people asking what they can do to help.
We’re talking and planning with members and allies on steps forward, and we commit to stay on this issue, to press for an immediate stop to family separations–and to lift up the the other critical issues like detention, like access to asylum, like punitive border policies. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to be bold and persistent–and as someone once said, “when they go low, we go high!”
A Round-up of News on Family Separation
Here’s a round-up of news and updates on the “family separation” issue–in which hundreds of migrant children have been purposefully separated from their detained parents at the border, with the intention of pressuring parents to give up claims for asylum. The Trump Administration’s actions have quickly rallied opposition on multiple levels, with many around the country asking, with mounting frustration: “What can I do to end this horrible policy?”
The separation of children from their parents has been taking place for some months, but was heightened this past month, when some 658 children were taken from their parents in a 2-week period. Atty. Gen’l Jeff Sessions’ had announced on May 7 that all adults arriving at the U.S. border without valid immigration documents would be prosecuted for “illegal entry”–including asylum seekers, in defiance of international laws–and that any children would be separated from them. (Sessions has also decided that the U.S. will not consider asylum claims based on domestic abuse or violence, another turn away from current policy and practice.)
Just yesterday, several members of Congress took to the streets in Washington, DC, staging a sit-down, while several organizations delivered petitions with more than 300,000 signatures to the Dept. of Homeland Security. Legislation introduced in CongressMore than 30 senators have introduced S. 3036, the Keep Families Together Act. Legislators say they consulted with child welfare experts to ensure “that the government is acting in the best interest of children”. The bill follows a letter sent to Donald Trump by 40 Democratic senators calling on the President to end his “inhumane decision” to separate the children from their parents at the border. In the House, over 100 Democratic members signed House Resolution 927, condemning the Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and identifying the family separation policy as “child abuse, as it fails to protect children crossing the border”.
Click here to find contact information for your members of Congress. Urge senators to pass S. 3036!
In the meantime, blocking family separations may be added to a “compromise” immigration bill crafted by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)–a bill that would include Trump’s border enforcement funding request and address the DACA crisis in some way. This proposal and a more hard-lined bill by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) are scheduled to be considered; many observers believe neither bill will be passed and the Senate is unlikely to take up any version. (Read summary of Goodlatte’s ‘Securing America’s Future Act’ here.)
You can also visit NNIRR’s Legislative Tracker to view and search for immigration legislation in the current Congress.
Legal Action – the ACLU lawsuitA southern California judge has said the ACLU may go forward with its lawsuit filed on behalf of two mothers whose children had been removed from them. Each parent had presented herself at a border entry point to request asylum, but were detained and their children taken from them. The judge will rule separately on ACLU’s request for a nationwide injunction and expansion of the lawsuit to include all parents whose children have been taken from them at the border. UN condemnation:
“The practice of separating families amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child.”The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at the UN issued a sharp criticism last week of the U.S. policy to take children away from their parents. See the video here, which also includes a critical statement from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office. The OHCHR statement said that, “We are deeply concerned that the zero tolerance policy recently put in place along the US southern border has led to people caught entering the country irregularly being subjected to criminal prosecution and having their children – including extremely young children – taken away from them as a result…The practice of separating families amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child. The United States is the only country in the world not to have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child but it nonetheless has obligations in that regard.
“The use of immigration detention and family separation as a deterrent runs counter to human rights standards and principles. The child’s best interest should always come first, including over migration management objectives or other administrative concerns. It is therefore of great concern that in the US, migration control appears to have been prioritised ahead of the effective care and protection of children.”
The OHCHR spokesperson further commented that “…it was vital to highlight that there was nothing normal about the detention of children, which was never in the best interests of the child and always constituted a human rights violation.”
NNIRR ED Catherine Tactaquin spoke on radio KPFA 94.1 UpFront’s program yesterday morning on the family separation and asylum issues. Listen to the podcast here.
Thanks, as always, for your support. And stay tuned for further action and advocacy to end the removal of children from their parents at the border.