CRUELTY BY ICE

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency’s practice of detaining and often deporting undocumented immigrants who are leading up-standing, productive lives and have no criminal record is disturbing. However, even more disturbing is ICE’s practice of separating law abiding – and in some cases asylum-seeking – parents from their children, including quite young children.

In one case, four months ago, a mother and her seven-year-old daughter from the Congo, fleeing threats to their safety, crossed the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego and asked for asylum. Four days later, the mother was in a Southern California detention center, while her seven-year-old daughter was sent, without explanation, to a children’s detention center in Chicago. The government has filed no charges against them, nor alleged that they pose any kind of threat, nor contended that the mother was in any way unfit to take care of her young daughter. They have been permitted only infrequent phone calls and the girl is reported to have sobbed throughout each of the calls.

In another case, a Brazilian woman with a 14-year-old son sought asylum back in August. She was detained in Texas while her son was taken to a detention center in Chicago. In a third example, in November, a 30-year-old El Salvadoran arrived at the U.S. border with his infant son and asked for asylum. After a short detention, ICE officials took the 1-year-old son away from his father. The father remained in detention and for weeks he had no idea where his son had been taken. His son was subsequently released to the mother, while the father remained in custody. [1] This practice is not only inhumane, it violates US and international laws on the treatment of asylum-seekers.

The ACLU has filed a class-action lawsuit to compel ICE to reunite hundreds of parents and children, and to enjoin it from continuing the practice of separating children and parents. [2] No formal policy of separating parents from their children has been announced. However, administration officials have said that efforts are made to deter people from trying to enter the US and that one strategy is to separate children from their parents.

A complaint against the practice of separating children from parents has been filed with the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General. [3] Separating children from their parents when there are no allegations of abuse or neglect or of parent criminality is cruel and unusual punishment. It is also traumatizing for children, especially young children, in the best of situations – and these are often families fleeing violence in their home countries, which is likely to have traumatized children already. Further traumatizing these children by separating them from their parents will probably harm these children – and perhaps their parents – for life with symptoms akin to post-traumatic stress disorder. To intentionally do this to any child is unthinkable; it is truly an affront to basic humanity.

Perhaps not quite as horrible, but nonetheless inhumane, is the detention, and deportation in some cases, of undocumented parents who are here in the US pursuing legalization, who have no criminal record, and who are long-time, productive members of their communities. For example, in January, a Providence mother of a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old was detained when she met with immigration officials to pursue permanent resident status because she is married to a US citizen – the father of her two children. Totally without warning, she was detained for nearly a month. This 30-year-old mother has been in the US since she was brought here by her parents when she was 3 years old. [4]

In the last year, at least 14 immigrants in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, who had applied for permanent residency, i.e., they were playing by the rules and were doing the right thing, have been detained. They are typically detained when they come to ICE for a scheduled appointment to pursue their residency application. Many are married to US citizens, which has traditionally been a common, straight-forward path to being granted permanent resident status. Arresting undocumented immigrants who are working with authorities on obtaining legal status is a new and aggressive tactic by ICE.

We must stop ICE’s inhumane separation of children from their parents. This practice traumatizes these children and has no humane rationale. Please sign this petition to the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, and ask her to stop ICE’s practice of separating children and parents: https://action.momsrising.org/sign/Separating_Children_from_Mothers_at_the_Border_Inhumane/?akid=10559.2198800.aG1I1P&t=19

I also urge you to call, email, and / or write your federal elected officials and ask them to do everything they can to stop ICE’s inhumane practice of separating children from their parents. You can find your US Representative’s name and contact information at: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/. You can find your US Senators’ names and contact information at: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

[1]      Harris, L.M., 12/21/17, “Our government must stop separating asylum-seeking families,” USA Today

[2]      Merchant, N., 3/10/18, “ACLU files suit over family breakups,” The Boston Globe from the Associated Press

[3]      LA Times Editorial Board, 3/5/18, “Separating children and parents at the border is cruel and unnecessary,” The LA Times

[4]      Cramer, M., 3/12/18, “Detained and bewildered,” The Boston Globe

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