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Separation of children and parents in US: What can we do?

A statement from our Director on the separation of asylum-seeking children from their parents at the US border: here's what you can do today.
26 June 2018

At least 2,300 children have been separated from their parents because of Donald Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy. A few days ago, he signed an executive order to end the separation of families at the border - but this allows the US to hold immigrant children in prison-like conditions with their parents for an indefinite period of time - trading one inhumane policy for another. It also does nothing to help the 2,300 children who have already been torn apart from their parents to be reunited with them.

And this is not an easy task: once detained and separated at the border, children and their parents enter two separate systems. Parents will enter the criminal prosecution system with the US Department of Homeland Security, and children will be transferred to the US Department of Health and Human Services, with some flown to shelters on the other side of the country. With no clear process in place for tracing and reuniting families, and coordination thus far described as ‘disastrous’ by the Texas Civil Rights Project, there is a risk some families will never be reunited.

This is not a time to be silent. Mothers have described hearing their children screaming in the next room after being separated, and one father has committed suicide after his child was taken away. Here at RSN we see everyday the profound trauma caused by the separation of children from their parents. But the children we work with have been separated by war, by persecution, by tragedies at sea en route to safety - not by government officials of the country they have turned to for help. The United Nations has described the practice as unlawful, and in violation of the rights of the child.

There are solutions: keeping families together in community-based alternatives to detention whilst they await their immigration hearings have not only proved effective (with nearly 100% of families in these alternative programmes showing up in court), but are also far less expensive, costing dollars per day instead of hundreds of dollars per day.

This gut-wrenching trauma is entirely avoidable. It doesn’t have to be this way, and we at RSN, along with hundreds of thousands of others call upon the Trump administration to end this needless suffering.

We might feel powerless here in the UK, but even from here, there are things we can do.  Please, join us in taking action, and consider the following:

Use your voice:

  • Write to your MP. Your MP needs to know that this issue is important to you. Trump’s first Presidential visit to the UK will take place on 13th July. We need MPs to ask the Prime Minister to raise this issue with him as a top priority - and to focus on reuniting families and stopping the detention of children in any form.
  • Sign a petition. Lots of petitions have sprung up about this issue. The ones that have gained the most traction have typically been about stopping separation. It’s still worth signing these to add your voice, but, following Trump’s executive order, key needs now are for the already-separated children to be reunited with their parents, and for community-based alternatives to detention to be used for families claiming asylum. We’ve signed this one by KIND/Change.org, that has one of the largest followings, and sends helpful updates with links to new petitions as the situation changes.

Use your resources:

There are some great US-based organisations doing everything they can to reunite families and provide much needed legal support to children and parents. We are not a legal-advice provider, and can’t be on the ground at the border, but we think these organisations are doing great work and could use donations.

  • Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) KIND is a national organisation that trains bro-bono lawyers to represent immigrant children. They are responding to this crisis by bringing in new expertise in child protection law, and training more volunteer lawyers to help represent and reunite separated children.
  • The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) RAICES is the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas, and is working together with the Texas Civil Rights Project on a newly launched family reunification programme. They are working to identify the parents of separated children, and provide the legal representation the children and their parents need.
  • Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP) FIRRP’s mission is to provide  free legal and social services to detained adults and unaccompanied children facing immigration removal proceedings in Arizona - in light of Trump’s executive order promoting the indefinite detention of families, they need resources to do more.

Finally, please join me as I pray for change in the treatment of separated children and their parents at the US border. It feels like it will take a miracle of love to undo this pain. But I have seen miracles of love in the past, and pray for one in the face of this today.

Catherine

Categories: International, Policy, Young refugees in the news
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