Between April of 2018 and June of 2018, the Trump Administration enacted a so-called “zero tolerance” policy that, in effect, was a family separation policy. During that time, thousands of migrant families were torn apart.
Mostly fleeing horrendous violence in Central America, parents had their children — including infants — taken out of their arms by immigration officials. The family separation policy was unjust, inhumane, and cruel, and it inflicted an enormous amount of trauma on innocent and vulnerable people.
Children and Families are Dealing With Severe Trauma
Many of the migrants who came to the U.S. border seeking asylum — legal protection for refugees — had already endured severe emotional and physical hardship in their home countries. Family separation made an already difficult situation far worse for these people.
Parents and children affected by family separation are now dealing with serious mental health issues. As explained by the American Psychological Association, there is overwhelming “empirical evidence of the psychological harm that children and parents experience when separated.”
Alarmingly, the government has not been able to confirm that it has reunited every separated child with their parents. Further, in many cases, family reunification took far longer than has been publicly recognized.
As an example, an eight-month-old baby from Honduras was separated from his mother at the U.S. border and was not reunited for nearly seven months. At that point, the infant spent half of his life in the custody of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) — a federal agency that is simply not equipped to provide the appropriate care.
Family Separation Was Built on a False Narrative
Family separation is inhumane and unjust. Period. The policy should never have been pursued — regardless of the underlying circumstances. That being said, it is also important to note that this immigration enforcement policy was built and sold on a false narrative.
Trump Administration officials, including then acting-ICE director Thomas Homan stated that the government was detaining migrants because “they won’t show up in court” for their immigration hearings. However, that statement is simply false. The American Immigration Council found that approximately 90 percent of families seeking asylum in the United States did show up for their immigration hearing — even though they were not detained.
The Family Separation Crisis is Not Over
One of the most alarming things about the unjust family separation policy is that the government does not even know how many young children were actually taken from their parents. According to an internal report from the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security, family separation was poorly planned, poorly executed, and the federal government violates its own rules in a large number of cases.
The trauma that was caused for parents, children, and families will endure for many years. Sadly, family separation is still occurring. In July of 2019, a Congressional report tilted Child Separations by the Trump Administration found that at least 700 more migrant children have been taken from their parents since the ‘zero tolerance’ child separation policy supposedly ended in June of 2018. It is clear that legal reforms and additional protections are needed.