We must cease the inhumane practice of separating families apprehended on the border | Eurasia Diary

We must cease the inhumane practice of separating families apprehended on the border | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

21 August, Tuesday


We must cease the inhumane practice of separating families apprehended on the border

Politics

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Every day hundreds of persons, ranging from infants and toddlers to adolescents and adults, flee violence, oppression, and economic desperation from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, seeking safe harbor in the United States. They are not criminals or terrorists; they are refugees seeking asylum. While they hope to receive asylum, none of us expected that they would be treated as criminals or that their children would be forcibly separated from them. I cannot think of a situation more devastating than having the government forcibly separate a parent from their child to a place unknown, for a fate uncertain, absent any form of communication.  But shamefully that is exactly what is happening under this administration.
 
Reports indicate that as many as 700 children have been taken from adults claiming to be their parents since October 2017, including more than 100 children under the age of 4.  This startling fact comes after Acting Assistant Secretary Steven Wagner of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) testified before the Senate in April 2018 that during a review of more than 7,600 unaccompanied immigrant children who had recently arrived and been placed with a sponsor, officials at the agency were unable to determine the precise whereabouts of 1,475 children.
 
This is unconscionable and unacceptable.
 
This administration’s practice of separating children from their parents inexplicably turns accompanied children into unaccompanied children, with all of the attendant risks and dangers, including human trafficking. In 2014, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations reported that “over a period of 4 months, HHS allegedly placed a number of UACs in the hands of a ring of human traffickers who forced them to work on egg farms in and around Marion, Ohio. The minor victims were forced to work six or seven days a week, twelve hours per day. The traffickers repeatedly threatened the victims and their families with physical harm, and even death, if they did not work or surrender their entire paychecks.”
 
What is even more reprehensible is to this day, the Trump administration maintains that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is not legally responsible for children after they are released from ORR care. This line of thinking allows such gross negligence to take place in the first place. As the Founder and Chair of the Congressional Children’s Caucus and as a parent and grandparent, this is unacceptable.
 
Studies have documented that when young children are traumatically removed from their parents, their physical and mental health and well-being suffers. The effects of these traumatic experiences — especially in children who have already faced serious adversity — are unlikely to be short-lived, and can likely last a lifetime. This is exacerbated when the child in custody speaks a language that is not English or Spanish. Although the government has a legal obligation to provide reasonable language services to unaccompanied minors, many children arriving to the U.S. speak indigenous languages and have little or no translation assistance provided by the U.S. government.
 
The Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy does not make our nation safer or more secure, nor is it a solution to the problem of illegal immigration and refugees seeking asylum. It is, however, monstrously cruel, inhumane, and shameful and makes a mockery of America’s reputation as the most welcoming and generous nation on earth.
 
United Nations Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani recently condemned the Trump administration’s treatment of unaccompanied minors coming to the United States saying that “the use of immigration detention and family separation as a deterrent runs counter to human rights standards and principles”.
 
The last time this nation had policies that promoted the forcible separation of children from newly arrived persons was slavery: a dark chapter in this nation’s history that we should not revisit. Today, the parents of these thousands of children will not be deterred from finding ways to reunite with their children, even reentering the United States under the threat of imprisonment. It would be unconscionable to prosecute parents under these circumstances. There must be strong and aggressive congressional oversight of this administration’s immigration enforcement.
 
The Trump administration’s policy should cease and desist immediately. National Policy regarding immigration legislation should not create greater fear for families already traumatized by intolerable conditions in their home countries. U.S. immigration policy should not deter refugees from seeking asylum within our borders. We should welcome mothers carrying their babies to a safe haven and assure the safety of their children.
 
I will soon be introducing legislation prohibiting the separation of children from their families absent a health or safety risk. The legislation will also provide that these children the right to be represented by counsel and that translation services be available at all legal proceedings at all stages. 
 
As we have seen with the recent volcanic activity and earthquakes in Guatemala, the United States should be seeking ways to help its neighbors in the Southern Hemisphere. The Trump administration is utterly failing in its basic duty to treat all persons with dignity and compassion. Rather, it is making a mockery of our national values and reputation as a champion of human rights. 
 
This crisis is not just an immigration matter, nor is it just a foreign policy matter. It is a humanitarian crisis, executed by an administration that purports to be the champion of ‘family values’ but whose actions do not actually value families. 
 
We are a great country with a long and noble tradition of providing sanctuary to the persecuted and oppressed. And it is in that spirit that we should act. We can do it; after all, we are Americans.

The Hill

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