After coming under intense criticism for forcibly separating more than 2,000 immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, President Trump ended the policy of family separation with an executive order on June 20. On June 26, a federal judge ordered the government to reunite parents with children under the age of five in 14 days and with children over the age of five in 30 days.
Because government officials had not planned well for separating families or detaining children, let alone for how families would be reunited, this reunification process has been extremely chaotic. Hundreds of parents have already been deported without their children.
It is still unclear what will happen to families after they have been reunited. A court settlement known as the Flores Agreement prohibits children from being held in detention for longer than 20 days and courts have been unwilling to overturn this settlement. After reports of parents being coerced to sign deportation papers in order to get their children back—abandoning any hope for asylum—a judge placed a temporary halt to deportationsof parents. However, parents may soon be forced to either leave the U.S. with their children or stay in the U.S. without them. This issue is far from resolved.
Asylum seekers at the border are hardly the only families being separated. From increased enforcement to the end of Temporary Protected Status for many to the travel ban, millions of families face separation (read more below).
“This is a reality I have grown up with — seeing our government abuse its power and treat my brothers and sisters seeking safety and shelter with hate. This is not a new issue.”— Ana Alicia Hinojosa, MCC Central States
MCC Central States is working to support the reunification of families in South Texas. Donate using the label “Central States Immigration.”
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Trauma of family separation: Recordings of children crying for their parents and stories of children clearly traumatized by the separation from their parents, held in harsh conditions and reportedly unable to hug siblings illustrate the trauma children have experienced under the family separation policy. Experts caution that this trauma is likely to have lasting effects. Many families had already faced unimaginable trauma before coming to the U.S. The voices of these migrants and the reasons they flee to the U.S. are often left out of news coverage.
Family detention is not the answer. MCC joined more than 100 faith-based organizations in calling on Congress to reject the expansion of family detention. Two of the government’s own medical experts cite the “high risk of harm” to children in detention.
Infants in court: Typically, a family requesting asylum appears before a judge together to make a case for why they need protection. Forced family separations have led to infantsand toddlers appearing without parents in court, making a mockery of the legal process.
New asylum rules: Attorney General Jeff Sessions has instructed immigration judges to deny all claims of asylum based on domestic violence or gang violence, even though the law requires those claims to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Sessions has also instructed officers to potentially reject asylum claims made by immigrants who crossed the border outside a port of entry (in violation of U.S. and international law). USCIS memo | ICE memo
Romans 13: When Sessions used Romans 13 to justify separating immigrant families he received an immediate backlash from people of faith, including in this letter from the Interfaith Immigration Coalition of which MCC is a member. Melissa Florer-Bixler’s piece in Christian Century about how her Mennonite Sunday school class reads Romans 13 differently than Mr. Sessions is worth a read.
Fiscal year 2019 spending bills: A House committee approved $5 billion for border wallspending, setting off a potential budget showdown with their Senate counterparts who approved $1.6 billion. The House bill also would dramatically increase enforcement and detention. Advocates are pushing for reduced spending for border security and ICE, increased oversight of all immigration enforcement agencies and more use of alternatives to detention. Toolkit
Enforcement: Calls to abolish ICE accompanied the introduction of a bill to dismantle and reform the agency. Top criminal investigators at ICE say controversial detention and deportation policies are making it difficult for them to investigate actual threats to public safety. Protests at ICE facilities are intensifying. One church put Jesus, Mary and Joseph in detention on their front lawn to illustrate the injustice of ‘zero tolerance’ policies at the border.
Detention: ICE is increasingly using federal prisons to hold immigrants. More than 1300 instances of sexual abuse were reported by immigrants in detention over the past five years. Infographic: Alternatives to detention | NIJC: 10 reasons why Congress must defund ICE
DACA: In June, after a discharge petition to force a vote on a set of DACA bills fell two votes short, the House voted on two Republican immigration bills which, among other provisions, would have provided billions for border security and dismantled the U.S. asylum system. Both bills failed to pass.
Temporary Protected Status: More than 300,000 TPS beneficiaries in the U.S. will lose their status in the next 18 months and will have to decide whether to take 273,000 U.S.-born children out of the only country they have ever called home, or to live as separated families. Their departure will also leave huge holes in a number of U.S. industries, including elder care.
Border: More than $1 billion was allocated for border walls in fiscal year 2018. Although walls will not be built through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, they will go through much of Hidalgo County in Texas, totaling about 45 miles. Letters have already gone out to private property owners requesting access for land surveys.
Travel ban: On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trump administration’s blanket travel ban on individuals from several majority-Muslim countries. Congress could overturn the ban but such action is unlikely. (Article: What would Mr. Rogers do with the Muslim travel ban?)
Denaturalizing U.S. citizens: A new government task force is reviewing the citizenship of more than 2,000 naturalized U.S. citizens and could revoke citizenship for those who misrepresented information on their application.
New challenges for immigrants changing their legal status: A new policy will put immigrants in deportation proceedings if their applications for certain immigration benefits are denied. The government is also hiring dozens of lawyers to look for inaccuracies on applications.
Court backlog: At the end of May, the number of immigration cases awaiting decision reached an all-time high of 714,067. This represents a 32 percent increase since January 2017.
August 4, 2018: The Stranger in Our Midst: Immigration Community Day(Philadelphia)
September 17 – 21, 2018: Immigration Law Training
October 3-8, 2018: Borderlands Learning Tour
Other Anabaptist voices
Enforcement / detention
Update created Juy 31, 2018, by Tammy Alexander, Senior Legislative Associate for Domestic Affairs.
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