The Trump administrations move to separate immigrant parents
from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has grabbed attention
around the world, drawn scorn from human-rights organizations and
overtaken the immigration debate in Congress.
Its also a situation that has been brewing since the week
President Donald Trump took office, when he issued his first order
signaling a tougher approach to asylum-seekers. Since then, the
administration has been steadily eroding protections for immigrant
children and families.
Theyre willing to risk harm to a child being traumatized,
separated from a parent and sitting in federal detention by
themselves, in order to reach a larger policy goal of deterrence,
said Jennifer Podkul, director of policy at Kids in Need of
Defense, which represents children in immigration court.
To those who work with immigrants, the parents plight was
heralded by a series of measures making it harder for kids arriving
on the border to get released from government custody and to seek
legal status here.
The administration says the changes are necessary to deter
immigrants from coming here illegally. But a backlash is mounting,
fueled by reports of children being taken from mothers and
distraught toddlers and elementary school age children asking,
through tears, when they can see their parents.
About 2,000 children had been separated from their families over
a six-week period ending in May, administration officials said
Among the parents caught up in the new rules is 29-year-old
Vilma Aracely Lopez Juc de Coc, who fled her home in a remote
Guatemalan village after her husband was beaten to death in
February, according to advocates. When she reached the Texas border
with her 11-year-old son in May, he was taken from her by border
agents, she said.
Her eyes swollen, she cried when she asked a paralegal what she
most wanted to know: When could she see her son again?
She did not know what was going on, said paralegal Georgina
Guzman, recalling their conversation at a federal courthouse in
Similar scenarios play out on a daily basis in federal
courtrooms in Texas and Arizona, where dozens of immigrant parents
appear on charges of entering the country illegally after traveling
up from Central America. More than the legal outcome of their
cases, their advocates say, theyre worried about their
Since Trumps inauguration, the administration has issued at
least half a dozen orders and changes affecting immigrant children,
many of them obscure revisions. The cumulative effect is a dramatic
alteration of immigration policy and practice.
The measures require a senior government official to sign off on
the release of children from secure shelters and allow immigration
enforcement agents access to information about sponsors who sign up
to take the children out of govern...