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Immigration and Refugee Advocates React to ICE Raids Targeting Parents of Refugee Children

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A recording of today’s call can be found here.

On a press call today immigration and refugee advocates from the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights and Center for American Progress (CAP) reacted to the deeply disturbing reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are targeting undocumented parents of unaccompanied children.

Just this afternoon, an undocumented mother and sponsor of children who fled to the United States from gang violence was targeted by ICE agents at her home in Texas. The woman was questioned about her status and that of her children. The children are currently in ORR custody through one of LIRS’s foster care programs while the mother undergoes the family reunification process. The ICE agents told her she could face criminal charges for bringing her sons to the U.S. They revealed they obtained her information from Customs and Border Protection when her children were detained at the border. For more information, please contact Jessica Jones at JJones@lirs.org.

A recording of today’s call can be found here.

For a list of resources for individuals facing deportation, as well as for communities, and attorneys, click here.

As McClatchy broke the news, and the Associated Press corroborated, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) is sharing information gleaned from interviews with unaccompanied children with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify undocumented parents and target them for detention and deportation. While the administration claims to be targeting smugglers, they are instead using vulnerable children to get to their parents, and ultimately separating families. This is a cruel and morally outrageous decision that is contrary to our country’s values.

Philip E. Wolgin, Managing Director, Immigration, Center for American Progress (CAP) said:

We cannot separate these ICE raids on parents of unaccompanied children from the wider out-of-control enforcement efforts of the Trump administration. Time and time again we have seen the administration make anyone here without status a target for enforcement, regardless of family and community ties, and regardless of whether it means terrifying our neighbors, tearing apart families, and leaving children at risk. DHS Secretary John Kelly should call off these raids immediately, and instead redouble efforts to protect refugees and asylees in a dignified and humane way.

Cory Smith, Vice President, Policy, Advocacy, and Communications, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) said:

To apprehend sponsors for children who are fleeing alone and seeking safety from rampant gang violence is undeniably cruel, extremely traumatizing to the children, and poor policy as children would remain in extremely expensive detention centers while their cases proceed. The Trump administration denying migrant and refugee children the care of a loved one in favor of incarceration is beyond the pale. Not only is this policy amoral and expensive, but it will also drive sponsors away leaving children extremely vulnerable to predators and human traffickers.

Jessica Jones, Policy Counsel, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) said:

Children in LIRS’s programs have shared harrowing stories of violence by gangs, trafficking and child abuse. When a parent in the U.S. hears that their child has been threatened at gunpoint and they might not live to see another day, they often make the only choice they feel they have: to pay a smuggler to bring their child to the U.S. As a faith-based organization, we believe God has called us to respond compassionately to these families.

Michelle Brané, Director, Migrant Rights and Justice, Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) said:

Don’t be fooled by claims that this is an effort to protect children from smugglers. What we are seeing is the United States government using children as bait with the clear intent of punishing parents and deterring them from protecting their children. This is a continuation of the administration’s effort to deter refugees from seeking protection by separating families and punishing people – children, mothers and fathers, who are fleeing violence and seeking safety. It is not only un-American and cruel. It is bad policy.

Maria Woltjen, Executive Director, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights said:

Using children to unwittingly turn in their parents is unconscionable. Threatening deportation. Threatening to charge parents with human smuggling—smuggling their own children. The Department of Homeland Security is taking advantage of children at their most vulnerable. They’re on their own. Running from dangerous situations, looking for the safety of family. And this is how we greet them. We should be trying to assist these children, not use them as unwitting informants.