Since the beginning of May, 2,342 children have been separated from their
parents after trying to cross the border between the United States and
Mexico. These numbers continue to grow as the Trump administration doubles
down on this controversial immigration policy. In light of the widespread
outcry that has been prompted by the
images of immigrant children being kept at detention centers, we explain what you need to know about family separations taking place
at the border.
Does Trump’s Administration Have a Policy that Separates Families
at the Border?
In short, yes, the Trump Administration has a policy that incudes prosecuting
parents traveling with their children. In fact, this policy extends to
those seeking asylum as well. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered
prosecutors to “adopt immediately a zero-tolerance policy"
for all illegal border crossings. Under this policy, White House officials
have repeatedly acknowledged that families trying to cross the border
are in fact separated as a form of deterrence for others looking to come
to the United States illegally.
Separating families at the border is a practice that is unique to the Trump
administration. Prior administrations generally didn’t separate
families illegally crossing the border. Trump and his administration can
choose to end this practice and reunite families at any time.
What Happens When a Family is Separated?
While the process starts at Border Patrol detention facilities, many of
the details about what comes next remains unclear. The Texas Civil Rights
Project was able to speak with detained adults and reported that
multiple parents were separated from their kids without ever being given
any information about where their children would end up. Some parents also reported that
their children were taken away after they were told they would be getting a bath.
After they have been separated from their parents, the policy for treating
these children seems to be similar to existing systems for detaining and
housing unaccompanied minor immigrants who cross the border alone.
Where Do the Children Go After They Have Been Separated From Their Parents?
The answer to this question varies. Some children are transferred to long-term
shelters where they are supposed to eventually be placed with other families
Border Patrol Facilities: Children are usually held here first, but can’t be kept for longer
than three days. Border Patrol facilities have been criticized before
poor conditions and
reports of abuse and inhumane treatment.
Child Immigrant Shelters: After the three day period, children are transferred from the detention
center to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). ORR has a network
of about 100 shelter facilities where detained children are sent to. According
to ORR, children stay less than 57 days on average, though
some children have been detained longer than that.
Tent Camps: With ORR shelters filling up, a temporary facility has since been set
up in Tornillo, Texas, close to El Paso. Because reporters have not been
allowed inside, not much is known about this facility. While it’s
not clear how many minors are inside, the government plans to expand it
to hold close to 4,000 detained minors.
Sponsors or Family Members: ORR tries to find family members, foster parents, or sponsors to take in
minor children. While their parents are the preferred option, it’s
not always possible when they remain in detention. Sponsors and family
members also face increased scrutiny, such as fingerprinting and criminal
background checks when picking up minor children.
Can Parents Who Have Been Prosecuted Be Reunited with Their Children?
If the parents are released from detention, they can eventually take custody
of their own children. However, lawyers and advocates warn that there
is no formal process or protocol that tracks parents and children within
the system. This inadequate record keeping is creating chaos because it
is difficult to know which facility a child might be at. According to some
reports, parents have been deported without their children.
Have you been separated from a loved one who was detained at the border?
Our Fort Lauderdale immigration attorneys can help you. Call (888) 900-1748
today to schedule a consultation with our legal team.