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Winners & Losers in Family Separation Trauma

A game of political tug-of-war in Washington has amounted to trauma across the Rio Grande Valley, where droves of parents detained for crossing illegally are separated from their children. U.S. President Donald Trump describes his own choices as one of loopholes or “zero tolerance.”

“We can either release all illegal immigrant families and minors who show up at the border from Central America or we can arrest the adults for the federal crime of illegal entry. Those are the only two options: totally open borders or criminal prosecution for law breaking,” Trump said.

The Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy places anyone who crossed illegally at risk of detention, including asylum-seekers and parents of minors. Since children cannot be held in detention centers, they are separated from their parents, with no word on when or how they might be reunited. Still, migrant families continue to take their chances.

In speaking with migrant families here in McAllen, Texas, there is a common thread between their stories. No matter how dreadful the circumstances may be here, the alternative — they say — is worse.”

“This young man, he made me cry,” Luis Guerrero, a volunteer for Catholic Charities told VOA. “Tears came out my eyes, because he said ‘we came down here because they (gangs) wanted to make my daughter a prostitute.’ That they came knocking on his door.”

“A mother that has a kid that is suffering, nothing will stop her from saving her son,” Sister Norma Pimental, executive director of Catholic Charities in the Rio Grande Valley said. “It doesn’t matter what we do here, unfortunately, where children suffer in order to attempt mothers to stop coming. But if her son is suffering, it’s a huge risk, but they are going to save their children if they can.”

Caught, then what?

Parents charged with illegal entry are processed and sent to a detention center, while their children are separated and sent to federal foster care facilities.

((MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY AT LAW))

“Every mother that described having their child taken from them, stated that they had been lied to when the child was taken from them,” attorney Attorney Michael Avenatti said, describing his interactions with some of the mothers. “At no point in time did anyone with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or anyone else tell the mother what was really going on; namely, that they were taking the children from them, and it would be days, weeks, and months before they saw them again.”

Sister Norma Pimentel calls families that entered the United States illegally but have not been separated the “lucky ones” — a discretionary decision among Border Patrol chiefs, sometimes out of the sheer volume at detention centers, to allow some families to prove credible fear and seek asylum.

But even among families who were not separated, fear has infiltrated through stories of others.

“I heard various women say that a girl had supposedly been brought to a court, and they brought her there for 36 hours, except they didn’t take her where they had said…but to a jail, and when she arrived, her son wasn’t there anymore, Lucia, a migrant from Guatemala told VOA.

 

 

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Winners & Losers in Family Separation Trauma

A game of political tug-of-war in Washington has amounted to trauma across the Rio Grande Valley, where droves of parents detained for crossing illegally are separated from their children. U.S. President Donald Trump describes his own choices as one of loopholes or “zero tolerance.”

“We can either release all illegal immigrant families and minors who show up at the border from Central America or we can arrest the adults for the federal crime of illegal entry. Those are the only two options: totally open borders or criminal prosecution for law breaking,” Trump said.

The Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy places anyone who crossed illegally at risk of detention, including asylum-seekers and parents of minors. Since children cannot be held in detention centers, they are separated from their parents, with no word on when or how they might be reunited. Still, migrant families continue to take their chances.

In speaking with migrant families here in McAllen, Texas, there is a common thread between their stories. No matter how dreadful the circumstances may be here, the alternative — they say — is worse.”

“This young man, he made me cry,” Luis Guerrero, a volunteer for Catholic Charities told VOA. “Tears came out my eyes, because he said ‘we came down here because they (gangs) wanted to make my daughter a prostitute.’ That they came knocking on his door.”

“A mother that has a kid that is suffering, nothing will stop her from saving her son,” Sister Norma Pimental, executive director of Catholic Charities in the Rio Grande Valley said. “It doesn’t matter what we do here, unfortunately, where children suffer in order to attempt mothers to stop coming. But if her son is suffering, it’s a huge risk, but they are going to save their children if they can.”

Caught, then what?

Parents charged with illegal entry are processed and sent to a detention center, while their children are separated and sent to federal foster care facilities.

((MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY AT LAW))

“Every mother that described having their child taken from them, stated that they had been lied to when the child was taken from them,” attorney Attorney Michael Avenatti said, describing his interactions with some of the mothers. “At no point in time did anyone with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or anyone else tell the mother what was really going on; namely, that they were taking the children from them, and it would be days, weeks, and months before they saw them again.”

Sister Norma Pimentel calls families that entered the United States illegally but have not been separated the “lucky ones” — a discretionary decision among Border Patrol chiefs, sometimes out of the sheer volume at detention centers, to allow some families to prove credible fear and seek asylum.

But even among families who were not separated, fear has infiltrated through stories of others.

“I heard various women say that a girl had supposedly been brought to a court, and they brought her there for 36 hours, except they didn’t take her where they had said…but to a jail, and when she arrived, her son wasn’t there anymore, Lucia, a migrant from Guatemala told VOA.

 

 

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US Separating Increasing Number of Children from Parents at Border

U.S. officials are separating undocumented children who cross the southern border with their parents at a faster rate than the government had previously acknowledged, data provided to reporters by immigration officials on Tuesday shows.

In the 35 days from May 5 to June 9, some 2,342 children — an average of 67 a day — were separated from their parents or custodians as the adults faced federal criminal charges for entering the country illegally, as well as deportation proceedings, as a result of a new policy the Trump administration refers to as “zero-tolerance.”

Numbers provided by the Department of Homeland Security late last week indicated that between April 19 and May 31, 1,995 children were removed from their parents and held in government-funded shelters, averaging roughly 48 separations a day.

Those dates roughly coincide with when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy on April 6, and when DHS – which includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection – joined the initiative on May 7. VOA has requested additional data on separations from DHS that coincides with those key dates of the initiative.

Sessions ordered that all migrants crossing the border illegally be swiftly placed into federal criminal court proceedings for illegal entry into the country. With parents or custodians detained on federal charges, according to DHS the children cannot accompany the adults to those facilities, and are rendered “unaccompanied minors.”

They are then placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which contracts out to non-profits; those organizations are in turn are running shelters to hold the children, some of which are younger than 4.

An audio recording made inside one such shelter by investigative news outlet ProPublica revealed wailing children pleading for their parents.

A request for information on the number of reunifications or deportations that have taken place since the policy was announced in April was not immediately provided on Tuesday’s call with DHS officials; a subsequent request by VOA for that data has not yet received a response.

Sharp criticism followed the recent decisions by Trump and his Cabinet officials, who have at times referred to the policy as a deterrent to border crossers, but also denied that it could be considered a “policy,” as DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at the White House on Monday.

In a strongly-worded statement Monday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein denounced the US policy.

“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” al-Hussein said.

 

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US Separating Increasing Number of Children from Parents at Border

U.S. officials are separating undocumented children who cross the southern border with their parents at a faster rate than the government had previously acknowledged, data provided to reporters by immigration officials on Tuesday shows.

In the 35 days from May 5 to June 9, some 2,342 children — an average of 67 a day — were separated from their parents or custodians as the adults faced federal criminal charges for entering the country illegally, as well as deportation proceedings, as a result of a new policy the Trump administration refers to as “zero-tolerance.”

Numbers provided by the Department of Homeland Security late last week indicated that between April 19 and May 31, 1,995 children were removed from their parents and held in government-funded shelters, averaging roughly 48 separations a day.

Those dates roughly coincide with when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy on April 6, and when DHS – which includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection – joined the initiative on May 7. VOA has requested additional data on separations from DHS that coincides with those key dates of the initiative.

Sessions ordered that all migrants crossing the border illegally be swiftly placed into federal criminal court proceedings for illegal entry into the country. With parents or custodians detained on federal charges, according to DHS the children cannot accompany the adults to those facilities, and are rendered “unaccompanied minors.”

They are then placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which contracts out to non-profits; those organizations are in turn are running shelters to hold the children, some of which are younger than 4.

An audio recording made inside one such shelter by investigative news outlet ProPublica revealed wailing children pleading for their parents.

A request for information on the number of reunifications or deportations that have taken place since the policy was announced in April was not immediately provided on Tuesday’s call with DHS officials; a subsequent request by VOA for that data has not yet received a response.

Sharp criticism followed the recent decisions by Trump and his Cabinet officials, who have at times referred to the policy as a deterrent to border crossers, but also denied that it could be considered a “policy,” as DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at the White House on Monday.

In a strongly-worded statement Monday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein denounced the US policy.

“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” al-Hussein said.

 

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From Texas Border, a Close Up View of Migrant Family Separation

As Congress mulls over the future of two House immigration bills, migrant families who entered the United States illegally continue to be separated as a result of the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy. In South Texas, VOA spoke with activists seeking an end to the practice, along with migrants who were lucky enough to avoid separation. Ramon Taylor reports.

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From Texas Border, a Close Up View of Migrant Family Separation

As Congress mulls over the future of two House immigration bills, migrant families who entered the United States illegally continue to be separated as a result of the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy. In South Texas, VOA spoke with activists seeking an end to the practice, along with migrants who were lucky enough to avoid separation. Ramon Taylor reports.

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Trump Meeting With Lawmakers Amid Migrant Controversy

U.S. President Donald Trump is meeting with Republican lawmakers Tuesday about immigration legislation amid growing cries for him to end his migrant policy separating children from their parents at the U.S. southern border with Mexico as they illegally enter the United States.

Trump, in several Twitter comments, continued to defend his break-up-the-families policy, saying, “We must always arrest people coming into our Country illegally.”

He said, “Now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration. Get it done, always keeping in mind that we must have strong border security.”

The House of Representatives is set to vote later in the week on two immigration bills, including provisions that would curb the separation of children from their parents at the border. The measures would also create a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million young immigrants already in the U.S. who were brought illegally to the U.S. years ago by their parents, but it is not clear that either piece of legislation has enough votes to win passage.

In a meeting with Republican senators Monday, Trump threatened to shut the government in late September, as a new fiscal year starts October 1, if Congress does not approve $25 billion in funding for a wall along the Mexican border to thwart further illegal migration into the U.S. So far, Congress has approved little funding for the barrier, keeping Trump from meeting one of his signature vows during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Numerous Republican and Democratic lawmakers have called for Trump to abandon the border policy as indefensible. All four former living U.S. first ladies, Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Rosalynn Carter, condemned the separation of children from their parents.

Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, through a spokeswoman, said she “hates to see children separated from their families” and that the U.S. should be “a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

One Republican governor, Maryland’s Larry Hogan, in an act of protest of Trump’s policy on breaking up families when they are detained, withdrew the state’s small National Guard contingent from the border where it had been assisting federal agents. Another Republican governor, Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker, dropped his offer to send troops to the border.

In a Washington speech, Trump said Mexico does “nothing for us” to block the flow of immigrants from reaching the U.S.

“If you don’t have Borders, you don’t have a Country!” Trump tweeted.

He once again inaccurately blamed opposition Democrats for the border dispute, even though his administration set the policy on separating children from their parents.

“Democrats are the problem,” Trump tweeted. “They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!

Mexico weighed in on the controversy, strongly rebuking Trump.

“In the name of the Mexican government and people, I want to express our most categorical and energetic condemnation of this cruel and inhuman policy,” Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told a news conference.

 

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Former Federal Prosecutors Urge Sessions to End Family Separations

A bipartisan group of more than 70 former United States attorneys is urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end a policy of separating the children of illegal immigrants from their parents at the border, saying his recently announced “zero-tolerance” policy has caused “unnecessary trauma and suffering of innocent children.”

“Like the majority of Americans, we have been horrified by the images and stories of children torn from their families along our nation’s Southwest Border,” the group wrote in a letter issued late Monday.

“But as former United States Attorneys, we also emphasize that the Zero Tolerance policy is a radical departure from previous Justice Department policy, and that it is dangerous, expensive, and inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served,” they wrote.

Under the “zero-tolerance” policy recently announced by Sessions, “100 percent” of immigrants illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border would be referred for prosecution, while children and parents would be separated.

“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said last month while announcing the new initiative. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

Statistics released by the Department of Homeland Security show that more than 2,300 children were separated from their parents between May 5 and June 9.

Audio recordings and images of young children held at warehouses have sparked a national outcry, with Democrats and some Republicans urging the administration to end the policy.

Administration officials, denying they have a “family separation policy,” have said Congress can put an end to the crisis by passing new immigration laws.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Monday that the Trump administration “did not create a policy of separating families at the border,” contending that both the Bush and the Obama administrations separated families, albeit at a lower rate.

“This is not new,” Nielsen said. “We have a statutory responsibility that we take seriously to protect alien children from human smuggling, trafficking and other criminal actions, while enforcing our immigration laws,” she told a press conference.

Sessions, speaking at a gathering of the National Sheriffs Association on Monday, stood by the administration’s policy.

“We do not want to separate children from their parents,” he said. “We do not want adults to bring children into this country unlawfully, placing them at risk.”

WATCH: Sessions on separating parents, children

Under the new initiative, parents are held at adult detention centers near the border, while children, reportedly including infants and children, are transferred to refurbished shelters, sometimes thousands of miles away.

In their open letter, the former prosecutors wrote that the law “does not require the systematic separation of families under these circumstances.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the letter.

 

 

 

 

 

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