Amid increased efforts to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants trying to enter the Southwest border, the Justice Department has filed charges of illegal entry against a caravan of 11 asylum seekers from Central America. Four of those facing charges were forcibly separated from their children, who were placed into separate custody. This incident is not the first of its kind, prompting immigration rights activists to accuse the federal government of deliberately separating immigrant families at the border.
Here are a few facts on the matter.
There is No Official Policy…Yet
The Trump administration has not announced any kind of blanket policy to separate migrant families crossing the border. According to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department would prosecute any illegally entering the country’s borders. So, if a mother or father is apprehended with a child for illegal entry, the minor must be taken away as he or she cannot stay with the parent/s as they are processed by the criminal court system.
Why is the Government Breaking Families Apart?
According to White House sources, the goal is to protect the border, uphold the rule of law, and implement measures that deter unlawful immigration. Administration officials also point to the strained asylum system, which Sessions said has long been overwhelmed with people filing frivolous claims.
This has reportedly caused President Trump to demand that families be separated upon detention to stifle the influx of Central Americans entering the country.
Where Do These Families Come From?
The majority of migrants detained by immigration officials come from El Salvador and Honduras—countries plagued by drug wars and gang violence. Children here are prime targets for gang recruitment, prompting families to seek safe haven in the United States. Since October last year, it’s estimated that more than 80,000 people crossed the border with their families.
What Is Being Done About this Practice?
The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking an injunction to stop the practice, calling the deliberate separation of parents from their children a gross violation of due process, particularly since it is used to deter unlawful immigration. In their lawsuit, the ACLU argues that the government can only legally break up families when parents are proven to be abusive and unfit to care for their children.
Where Are the Children Being Taken?
According to the Justice Department, a child whose parents have been detained cannot be released without first assigning a guardian. As such, the children are sent to federal facilities while their parents go through the criminal court system. Children, however, can be released to a related guardian, such as a family member, if the latter can prove ties. But usually, migrant children must first stay at a federal facility managed by the Health and Human Services Department.
For more updates on this matter, be sure to follow this blog. If you, or a loved one, need assistance with your asylum application, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.