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In many courtrooms along the southern border, parents of children taken by DHS are asking questions about the children DHS took from them under the Trump administration’s new family separation policy. Where is my child? How can I communicate with my child? When will I be reunited with my child? Will my child be deported with me? Will I ever see my child again?
There are no clear answers. Not from anyone with authority – federal judges, federal prosecutors, public defenders. Not even from DHS – the agency that separates children, including infants and toddlers, from their parents.
In response to desperate parents in anguish in his courtroom, a judge asked a federal prosecutor whether children would be reunited with parents once in DHS detention. The U.S. Attorney was uncertain. The judge responded:
“Tell you what,” the judge said slowly, with a hard edge in his voice, “if it’s not, then there are a lot of folks that have some answering to do. Because what you’ve done, in effect, by separating these children is you’re putting them in some place without their parents. If you can imagine there’s a hell, that’s probably what it looks like.”
In another courtroom in El Paso, Texas, a judge asked a government prosecutor:
“What are the arresting agency’s procedures for providing information (e.g. location and well-being) regarding the unaccompanied minor children of undocumented alien defendants charged with a petty misdemeanor such as illegal entry . . . ?” Government lawyers didn’t seem to have an answer.
The same is happening with DHS at the border. When her 18-month-old son was physically taken from her by DHS at the border, a mother begged for answers. Although she was told that her son would be taken to a foster home in Texas, she said:
I wasn’t told who was taking care of him, how long he would be there or when I would see him next. I was given a phone number to call, but I had no access to a phone.
David Leopold, Chair of Immigration at Ulmer & Berne and former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said:
The Trump administration’s diabolical policy of ripping children from their parents at the border is plain evil, that much is clear. But if tearing apart a baby from her mother’s arms is harsh, what follows is even more problematic. Who’s responsible for tracking the child to make sure the separation from her mother doesn’t become permanent? Who ensures that the separated children – some only infants and toddlers – are able to one day reunite with their parents? Who makes sure that the child, who would be too young to know her mother’s name, or even what country she came from, isn’t permanently lost? If there is no tracking system, how may a parent communicate with a child? The Trump administration owes the public answers to these critical questions.
Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch, a project of America’s Voice, said:
Any parent–- any human being – knows it is beyond cruel and extremely harmful to unnecessarily take a child from a parent. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have described the irreparable harm that occurs when children are taken from parents. But the Trump administration refuses to recognize this reality and continues to harm children hoping it will sow fear and deter parents from seeking protection in the U.S. On top of this, the administration is drastically increasing the number of separated children without even basic child welfare plans. They have no way of systematically keeping children in contact with parents throughout the separation; they have no plans to reunite parents with children; they have no answers for parents who have basic questions about the well-being of children, even infants and toddlers. This is barbaric and must be stopped.