Episode 5 – Family Separation at The Border: A Recap

Episode Description: The past few months have been a constant barrage of tweets, breaking news headlines, and articles about the “immigration crisis.” This administration has had no shortage of excuses when it comes to directing blame and skirting accountability for the separation of families at the border. So what statements are fact and which ones are fiction? Listen to this week’s episode to get a recap of the events and learn what sides of this issue still require our attention and call for us to stay involved to prevent further infringement of human rights.


We briefly talked about this topic in our first episode of the season (Woke in Review) and we wanted to revisit the topic to provide you with a better account of what has been happening. There has been so much that has happened and the administration has not been honest about what is happening.

During our conversation it was interesting to find that the three of us had learned about the family separation issue at different times. Maddie spoke about how she heard about it earlier in 2018. She was keeping up with the deportations and rhetoric around it but the family separations wasn’t really in the forefront till the pictures came out of the kids in the detention centers. Westley first heard of it back in February and the issue did not entirely catch Lina D’s attention until she saw a headline that positioned the issue as if the kids were being rescued from human trafficking situations. This was in May and her bullshit meter went off especially since Session’s Zero Tolerance policy had taken effect on April 6th.

Let’s do a recap of the situation and take a look at the chronology of events.

The articles below were used as a resource.

The Intercept: The U.S. Has Taken More Than 3,700 Children From Their Parents — And Has No Plan For Returning Them

Politifact: What You Need To Know About The Trump Administration’s Zero-tolerance Immigration Policy

CNN: The Remarkable History of The Family Separation Crisis

The Timeline

  • April 6, 2018: The “zero tolerance” policy orders authorities to criminally prosecute all individuals crossing the border illegally- includes asylum-seekers and parents arriving with small children.
  • April 2018 to May 2018: 1,995 children reported to be separated at the border
  • May 26, 2018: Trump tweets that the democrats are to blame for a “law” that separates families at the border. The tweet reads:

Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there* parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS. 9:59 AM – May 26, 2018

*Spelling has been maintained from the source

  • May 2018 to June 2018: Additional 2,342 children were reported to be separated. This is in addition to the approx 1,500 children that were separated from Oct 2017 to earlier this year.
  • June 20, 2018: Trump signs executive order to stop separating families at the border

There is a lot here that we should fact check so let’s start with fact checking Trump’s statement about the “law.”

There is no such democratic law that is separating families- it’s actually the zero tolerance policy that is enabling the separations. Zero tolerance ends up criminalizing all adults who cross the border illegally. That means that children cannot remain with their parents once they are charged.

Trump has made mention of “loopholes” that have contributed to the “immigration crisis”

What exactly is he referring to?

  • Flores v Reno: 1997 court settlement requires the government to release children from immigration detention either to their parents, relatives or protective programs.
  • 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act signed by Bush made this a law
  • 2015 a federal judge in California ruled that Flores requirements apply to unaccompanied minors and to children apprehended with their parents. The judge also ordered the Department of Homeland Security to release parents detained along with their children.

The Trump Administration reversed these protections with Zero Tolerance Policy.

We talk through what was happening with families at the border prior to the Trump administration:

  • Before Trump came into office, families were detained together, sent back immediately or paroled into the country
  • Prosecutions were rare: cost, time-consuming, previous administrations felt broad use of the ‘prosecute-first’ option was needlessly harsh, only used for repeat offenders
  • Now, prosecution is happening across the board and has become the uniform policy.

We mention how the administration started plotting the implementation of this policy

  • considering separating families at the border since the early months of his presidency
  • harsh treatment deter illegal immigration- John Kelly, then the Homeland Security secretary

The area that isn’t being considered by the administration and is not being elevated enough, is the traumatic impact these events have on the children.

  • children who are traumatized by that separation
  • traumas they suffered along the migration journey or in their country of origin
  • hundreds of immigrant children were placed in state foster care facilities across the country.
  • parents will have a difficult time proving their right to reunification.
  • Once in foster care the kids become wards of the state. They have their care and custody decisions handled by state welfare agencies and then by a state court.
  • Parents are given an opportunity to prove their ability to take care of their kids but due to their undocumented status this proves difficult. Especially because the courts  consider a parent’s undocumented status and their willingness to cross the border illegally as proof of parental unfitness sufficient to terminate parental rights.
  • For deported parents seeking reunification with their children, the prohibition on re-entry can be a major hurdle. It means parents cannot enter the U.S. to contest the termination of their parental rights. If parents do attempt re-entry after deportation they risk arrest, which further hampers their efforts to be reunited with their kids. Courts have repeatedly confirmed that an undocumented immigrant’s motivations for illegal reentry are irrelevant, and thus treat deportation as abandonment.

We reference the story of Alejandra and Temo Juarez to make a case for becoming informed about what is happening in our country and stress the importance of staying on top of what policy changes mean. You can read more of the story in the article: Chicago Tribune: Facing Deportation, Wife Of U.S. Marine Chooses To ‘self-deport’ To Mexico

So to inform you on the latest policy and the implications that it has on the ongoing immigration conversation we disset what has happened since the signing of the executive order.

CNN: What Trump’s Family Separations Executive Order Does

  • maintain family unity,” a new position from the administration which had been defending the separation of families and blaming the families themselves for putting themselves in the position of being separated by crossing the border illegally
  • adults will not be turned over to the Justice Department when they face criminal charges, and will instead stay with their children in detention with the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Justice Department will continue to prosecute adults who cross the border illegally in federal court, the order says, Trump asks that families be housed together “where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”
  • Called out that family cases would be prioritized
  • Seeks to change the policy dictated by Flores v. Reno
  • Didn’t require families to be reunited but court order from San Diego judge ordered that the administration reunite all children with their families by July 27th
  • some 700 children remain in youth shelters.
  • government says some of the parents are not eligible to be unified. Some have criminal records, or they’re locked up in county jails or state prisons. And then, there are hundreds of parents the government has lost track of. They were released into the U.S., or they’ve already been deported back to Central America.

What can we do to take action and stay involved?

The Cut: What You Can Do Right Now to Help Immigrant Families Separated at the Border

The Rolling Stone: 5 Things You Can Do to Fight Family Separation Right Now

  • Volunteer at organizations that support intake along the border
  • Donate to nonprofits
  • Contact your elected officials
  • Vote


Want to read more about this topic? Take your pick from the articles below.  

The Washington Post: Fact-checking Immigration Spin On Separating Families And 1,500 ‘lost’ Children

CNN: Us Lost Track Of 1,500 Immigrant Children, But Says It’s Not ‘legally Responsible’

Politifact: Donald Trump Blames Democrats For Own Immigration Policy Separating Families

USA Today: Trump Signs Executive Order On Immigration, But Says ‘zero Tolerance’ Will Continue

PBS: Trump Administration Seeks To Close Immigration ‘loopholes’

NBC News: Judge Orders U.S. To Reunite Families, Stop Border Separations

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