Immigrant children in detention in Texas, June 2018
Despite court rulings barring its policy of taking immigrant children from their parents, the Trump Administration’s officials are still pursuing the separations.
In the past year, since Donald Trump’s executive order was supposed to end the family breakups, 911 children have been taken away, according to documents filed on Tuesday in federal courts.
Reasons for the separations include a parent not changing a baby’s diaper, a traffic citation for driving without a license, a misdemeanor 20 years earlier, or destruction of $5 of property. At least one child was taken when her mother was hospitalized after injuring her leg.
Almost 500 children who were separted were under the age of 10. Almost 200 were 5 or younger. They spent an average of 68 days in shelters, but four have been separated for more than 300 days.
Under the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, launched in April 2018, almost 3,000 children were seized after families crossed the border into the US. They were taken hundreds or even thousands away to detention centers, which have been criticized as overcrowded, unhygienic, riddled with illness, and failing to provide basics such as toothbrushes and blankets.
At the end of June 2018, federal judge Dana Sabraw ordered an end to the practice. Trump reluctantly signed his executive order days later. However, because of poor record-keeping and deportations of parents, some of the children will not be reunited for up to two waters.
The latest documents were filed with Judge Sabraw of the Federal District Court in Southern California, as part of the court’s continuing supervision. The American Civil Liberties Union asked Sabraw to clarify standards, ensuring that children are taken fonly when there is evidence that a parent is a genuine danger or is unfit to provide care.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, in testimony before a House committee earlier this month,that separations were “rare” and made only “in the interest of the child”.
He said there had been fewer than 1,000 separations of children from their parents out of about 450,000 family members met at the border since October 2018.
But the ACLU’s Lee Gelernt noted that the rate of separations is increasing. He said about 200 children were separated between June and March, but more than 700 between June and the end of July.
Jorge Rivera-Navarro, a spokesman for the Border Patrol, said, “We are not really separating anybody unless there is criminal activity already on the record.”
But the court filing notes that authorities provided few or no details of criminal history: “In most cases, the spreadsheet fails to indicate the age of the charge or conviction. In over 75 percent of the cases, the spreadsheet does not even specify whether the crime was a felony or misdemeanor.”