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End Family Separation: COVID-19 and the Border

Why Family Separation Never Ended

The Trump Administration is using COVID-19 as an excuse to separate families at the border. At a time when people seeking legal protection are extremely vulnerable, the Administration has further dismantled the asylum system in the U.S. and is putting people in danger.

A U.S. District Court recently ordered that all children held for more than 20 days at three Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania must be released by July 17, 2020 to their parents or family sponsors.

There are mounting COVID-19 outbreaks in two out of the three family detention centers that leave children and their parents vulnerable under unsanitary and inhumane conditions. In order for these children to be truly safe, they should be released with their parents and not subjected to the long-term harm caused by family separation.

Family Separation in 2020

1. Deporting Children at the Border Alone

2. Deporting Children Living in the U.S. Seeking Asylum

3. Forcing Family Separations or Indefinite Detentions

In 2020, this is what family separation looks like.

The Trump Administration’s family separation policy at the border never ended, and now it is using a global health crisis as an excuse to expel all asylum seekers at our borders — deporting children and continuing to separate families. This is cruel and this is how the Administration is using COVID-19 to hurt children and their parents.

1. Deporting Children at the Border Alone: Kids are being ripped away from their parents, put on planes, alone, and sent away with no idea where they’re being sent to, and no one to care for them when they get there. These kids, some as young as 10 years old, are often being sent right back into the dangerous situations they were fleeing in the first place, thanks to the Remain in Mexico program. Over 41,000 legal asylum seekers have been expelled without due process — including at least 2,000 children.

The American people do not support this policy in any way, but that hasn’t stopped the Trump Administration from putting children at risk of kidnapping and worse.

2. Deporting Children Living in the U.S. Seeking Asylum: In recent months, the Department of Homeland Security has deported over 60 children living in the United States, claiming that they were health threats to Americans. These kids were here before the pandemic started, have nothing to do with the virus, and could have been safely reunited with family in the United States. DHS is going out of its way to put these children in danger, for no discernible reason beyond simple cruelty. The government isn’t just targeting children previously separated from their parents.

3. Using COVID-19 to Force Family Separations or Indefinite Detentions: The situation is no better for families waiting in detention for their asylum hearings. The Department of Homeland Security postponed the cases of 11,000 asylum seekers stranded by the Remain in Mexico policy, and this decision has forced vulnerable individuals to stay in dangerous conditions, with scarce access to cleaning supplies and running water, and where social distancing is impossible. Parents are faced with an unimaginable choice — either being forcibly separated from their children, or waiving their children’s Flores Agreement rights and being put into detention centers where COVID-19 outbreaks continue to a harrowing degree. Obviously, this is no real choice at all. Either option could have terrible consequences, and both result in the separation of families and endangerment of children at the border.

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Again and again, these actions to separate families have been overwhelmingly rejected by people across the political spectrum. A U.S. District Court recently ordered that all children held for more than 20 days at three Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania must be released by July 17, 2020 to their parents or family sponsors.

ICE has the discretion to release children and families together. They should do so immediately, without delay.

Take action today and sign up to hold the Administration accountable, restore the asylum system, and end family separation in 2020.

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