Announcements / May 2018

USCRI Opposes Growing Family Separation Policy of the Department of Homeland Security

Topic / /

For Immediate Release:
May 4, 2018

MEDIA CONTACT:
Stacie Blake
sblake@uscridc.org
703.310.1166

ARLINGTON, VA – The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) opposes the growing family separation policy of the Department of Homeland Security. Ostensibly to deter Central American families from coming to the U.S., the real impact of the policy is to inflict irreparable harm, fear and trauma on young children. The number of families making the journey over land to the United States has climbed in recent months, due to continued violence and upheaval in Central American countries that leaves many families and children running for their lives. These families from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are escaping countries with the highest murder rates in the world.

Last week the Department of Homeland Security announced they will refer all suspected border-crossers to the Justice Department for prosecution under an illegal entry statute, a practice that will split families arriving at the border regardless of the age of the child will undeniably increase the number of children classified as unaccompanied minors in the custody of HHS.

“Parents who try to save their children’s lives by asking for political asylum at our border should be respected and afforded due process. It is un-American to separate those brave parents from their vulnerable children. We cannot speak of family values unless we truly value all families,” said Eskinder Negash, President/CEO of USCRI.

USCRI has provided legal and case management services to unaccompanied children for over ten years. One child served recently is just 4 years old and was separated from his mother at the border. His trauma is real, he still cries and screams weeks later in fear and has no way to understand where his mother might be or if she will return. In another case a pregnant teen was separated from her mother at the border and the mother was deported. She is now in danger from the abusive boyfriend the teen was fleeing, and the teen is about to have a baby without her mother’s support and guidance. These are just two of the hundreds of stories we are beginning to see across the country as the Administration continues to tear the fabric of family apart.

USCRI joins the Women’s Commission in calling for immediate changes to minimize harm to children including:

  • Maintaining family unity as a priority in decision making at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) when enforcing immigration policy.
  • DHS should document and trace family relationships and share the information with attorneys and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in order to minimize family separation.
  • The best interests of the child should be of primary consideration and impact the decisions regarding separation; detention; repatriation or release.
  • DHS should engage child welfare professionals at the border to supervise the protection of children and families.
  • DHS should actively engage with ORR to help separated family members be located and reunited.
  • When children are designated as unaccompanied they should retain the designation for the duration of their removal proceedings.
  • The DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties should investigate cases of family separation to provide oversight and identify trends and report the findings to Congress and the public.

For over 100 years, USCRI has protected the rights and addressed the needs of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide and supported their transition to a dignified life.

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