Although reunification efforts have been court-ordered because of public outcry, family separation actions associated with the DHS Zero Tolerance Policy continue to take a toll on immigrant families. Over 2,000 children were taken from their families upon crossing the Mexican border into the United States as their parents were prosecuted for illegal entry. Hundreds of children have yet to be reunited with their parents.
Ending Family Separation
Now that the family separation under the Zero Tolerance Policy has ended, the Court has ordered the reunification of families. However, this process is complicated as children have been spread out throughout the country in foster care and in care centers like the tent city in Tornillo, Texas. The whereabouts of some children are unknown. Children as young as three have been sent to deportation court alone without an immigration lawyer to represent them. Meanwhile, many parents have already been deported.
Families often require an immigration lawyer to cut through the barriers to reunification. Parents are required to prove their relationship to their children, which is difficult even when they have documentation. Undocumented family members residing in the States risk their own immigration status if they step forward to sponsor family members or children who are held under the zero tolerance policy.
Zero Tolerance Causes Families to Make Hard Decisions
Many of the families affected by the DHS Zero Tolerance Policy seek to make asylum claims to gain entry after fleeing dangerous conditions in their home countries. However, because of the backlog of immigration cases or technicalities of not crossing at a specified entry point, they are arrested and sent to detention centers. Parents are forced to choose between attempting to make a new life in America, which could result in their children getting detained with them, or returning to the violence in their home countries.
Separation and causing harm to families goes against the United Nations’ convention that states “Asylum seekers should not be criminally prosecuted for entering without documentation because those fleeing prosecution often do not have time/ability to get proper authorization before they are forced to flee.”
The Trump Administration claims the law states that families shall be separated in the matter of illegal entry into the United States. However, there is no such law on the books despite these claims.