Sep­a­ra­tions of mi­grant fam­i­lies down at bor­der

More than 2,400 chil­dren were taken at prac­tice’s height in sum­mer

The Day - - FRONT PAGE - By COLLEEN LONG

Wash­ing­ton — The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion sep­a­rated 81 mi­grant chil­dren from their fam­i­lies at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der since the June ex­ec­u­tive or­der that stopped the gen­eral prac­tice amid a crack­down on il­le­gal cross­ings, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment data ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

De­spite the or­der and a fed­eral judge’s later rul­ing, im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials are al­lowed to sep­a­rate a child from a par­ent in cer­tain cases — se­ri­ous crim­i­nal charges against a par­ent, con­cerns over the health and wel­fare of a child or med­i­cal con­cerns. Those caveats were in place be­fore the zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy that prompted the ear­lier sep­a­ra­tions at the bor­der.

The gov­ern­ment de­cides whether a child fits into the ar­eas of con­cern, wor­ry­ing ad­vo­cates of the fam­i­lies and im­mi­grant rights groups that are afraid par­ents are be­ing falsely la­beled as crim­i­nals.

From June 21, the day after Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s or­der, through

Tues­day, 76 adults were sep­a­rated from the chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to the data. Of those, 51 were crim­i­nally pros­e­cuted — 31 with crim­i­nal his­to­ries and 20 for other, un­spec­i­fied rea­sons, ac­cord­ing to the data. Nine were hos­pi­tal­ized, 10 had gang af­fil­i­a­tions and four had ex­tra­ditable war­rants, ac­cord­ing to the im­mi­gra­tion data. Two were sep­a­rated be­cause of prior im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tions and or­ders of re­moval, ac­cord­ing to the data.

“The wel­fare of chil­dren in our cus­tody is para­mount,” said Katie Wald­man, a spokes­woman for the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, which over­sees U.S. im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment. “As we have al­ready said — and the num­bers show: Sep­a­ra­tions are rare. While there was a brief in­crease dur­ing zero tol­er­ance as more adults were pros­e­cuted, the num­bers have re­turned to their prior lev­els.”

At its height over the sum­mer, more than 2,400 chil­dren were sep­a­rated. The prac­tice sparked global out­rage from politi­cians, hu­man­i­tar­i­ans and re­li­gious groups who called it cruel and callous. Im­ages of weep­ing chil­dren and an­guished, con­fused par­ents were splashed across news­pa­pers and tele­vi­sion.

A fed­eral judge hear­ing a law­suit brought by a mother who had been sep­a­rated from her child barred fur­ther sep­a­ra­tions and or­dered the gov­ern­ment to re­unite the fam­i­lies.

But the judge, Dana Sabraw, left the caveats in place and gave the op­tion to chal­lenge fur­ther sep­a­ra­tions on an in­di­vid­ual ba­sis. Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union at­tor­ney Lee Gel­ernt, who sued on be­half of the mother, said he hoped the judge would or­der the gov­ern­ment to alert them to any new sep­a­ra­tions, be­cause right now the at­tor­neys don’t know about them and there­fore can’t chal­lenge them.

“We are very con­cerned the gov­ern­ment may be sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies based on vague al­le­ga­tions of crim­i­nal his­tory,” Gel­ernt said.

The zero tol­er­ance pol­icy over the sum­mer was meant in part to de­ter fam­i­lies from il­le­gally cross­ing the bor­der.

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