On April 6th, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Homeland Security Department would now be referring all illegal border crossings to the Justice Department for prosecution. Whenever parents are charged with a federal misdemeanor (entry without inspection in this case), or awaiting trial, they are placed in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. Children cannot go to jail, so they are transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. They are then placed with relatives, juvenile detention centers or foster care.
How Many Children Have Been Separated?
Even before the zero-tolerance policy was implemented, the New York Times reported that 700 children had been separated from an adult claiming to be their parent from October 2017 to April 2018. More than 100 of these children were under the age of four. These numbers have since grown exponentially. On May 23, 2018, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that 638 parents traveling with 658 children had been “processed for prosecution” under the new zero-tolerance policy between May 6 and May 19, 2018. Given that the Administration has said that parents referred for prosecution will be separated from their children, the testimony means that more than 600 families have been separated under the new policy in less than two weeks.
In fiscal year 2017, ports of entry at the U.S.-Mexico border received 111,275 non-citizens without visas or proper documentation, including 7,246 unaccompanied children, 29,375 members of family units, 15,410 citizens of Cuba, and 9,206 citizens of Haiti. Many of these 111,275 were asking for asylum or other humanitarian protection, and CBP officers at the ports of entry had to process each and refer them for credible fear interviews. The pace has been similar during the first seven months of fiscal year 2018, with 63,556 people arriving at the ports without proper documentation, many requesting asylum.
Alliance for Strong Families and Communities:
Society for Community Research and Action
The National Latina/o Psychological Association
KIND (Kids in Need of Defense)
How You Can Help End Family Separation and Ensure Protection for Children
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Jailing All Border Crossers and Separating Families Would Break U.S. Courts, Ports, and Prisons. (It’s Cruel, Too.)