As of Monday, the U.S. Government has separated 2,000 children from their parents along the U.S. border as a result of the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy on immigration.
The recent policy change by President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to charge every adult illegally crossing the border with a child with a federal crime instead of referring the cases to immigrations courts has set off a firestorm of protests nationwide.
Past administrations have allowed those immigrants crossing with children to have their day in immigration court. Now children are being placed in shelters as their parents face charges.
This week East Boston Ecumenical Community Council (EBECC) Executive Director Frank Ramirez blasted the policy. The EBECC has long helped newcomers to Eastie with immigration services, education and youth development.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy towards border crossers apprehended between ports of entry,” said Ramirez. “Under the policy, border officials with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are to refer every individual apprehended near the border who did not present at an official port of entry to the Justice Department (DOJ) for criminal prosecution for illegal entry or illegal re-entry. The government made clear that such referrals for prosecution may include individuals seeking asylum, despite the fact that prosecution inhibits access to protection and despite recent reports that many asylum seekers who instead seek asylum at ports of entry have been denied the opportunity to present themselves. It also means that adults traveling with children will be separated.”
Ramirez pointed out that the Trump administration has the discretionary power to rescind this de facto family separation policy in the same way the President has the power to pardon convicted celebrities.
“It is absolutely draconian that while President Trump is planning to pardon criminals that truly have broken the law, his administration is condemning children as criminals that deserve deportation or criminal prosecution,” complained Ramirez. “In contrast to the people he will pardon, these children are truly innocent. We do not oppose pardoning people if the intent is reparation of a wrong done to bring equity to the judicial system. But pardoning people only on the basis of celebrity or fame or political support is a travesty of presidential power intended to advance fairness and proportionality that contrast with his draconian policy of separating immigrants children from their family for the only “crime” of seeking asylum in the US.”
Ramirez said the Women’s Refugees Commission recently explained the brutal separation process.
“Once families are separated, parents will go to the custody of the U.S. Marshals for criminal prosecution and/or the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for their immigration case after their criminal case,” he explained. “Children considered “unaccompanied,” either because they arrived alone or because they are separated from their parents, are transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is often impossible for children and parents to find each other and to reunite, even when one is deported. Parents instinctively will protect their children and will not be willing to come forward to claim their children anymore because they don’t want to put themselves and their family at risk.”
Once in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody, unaccompanied children are screened for protection concerns and are eventually reunited with sponsors in the community.
“I’m not asking for a pardon for these children or their parents as I think they have not committed any crime,” said Ramirez. “I am just asking to grant them asylum and reunite them with their parents without penalties or constraints.”