An End to Family Separation

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

By: Ashmar Mandou

Trump signs order to end family separation after ‘zero tolerance’ backlash

Succumbing to the overwhelming pressure by communities across the country and bipartisan criticism, President Donald Trump signed an executive order ending his administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday afternoon.

The plan, as described by administration officials, would keep families together in federal custody while awaiting prosecution for illegal border crossings, potentially violating a 1997 court settlement limiting the duration of child detentions. “We have to be very strong on the border, but at the same time we want to be very compassionate,” Trump said at the White House during a meeting with lawmakers that was opened to the media. Over the past several weeks, the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy has separated over 2,000 children from their parents at the border, sparking outrage after intense images and audio recordings of young children crying for their parents emerged. Until Wednesday, the president, Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and other officials repeatedly defended immigration crackdown, insisting that congressional action was required. “What we have done today is keeping families together,” Trump said when signing the order in the Oval Office, adding that he would still like to see Congress take action later. The White House has not released the text of the order.

However, local organizations in Chicago are unsatisfied with the order citing more needs to be done to protect families from “horrific” and “shameful” practices. In response to the executive order, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) Lawrence Benito stated, “This executive order will do nothing to truly address the overwhelmingly condemned family separation crisis that the Administration itself created. The order continues the ‘zero tolerance’ policy of referring all adults apprehended at the border to criminal prosecution as opposed to only processing them for possible deportation, the policy that is separating the parents from their children. The order also does nothing to end the expensive and unnecessary detention of children and families. Real alternatives to detention, such as the Marie Joseph House of Hospitality run by Chicago’s Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants, safely house families and individuals seeking asylum as they await decisions on their cases. Nor does this executive order address the violence and desperation that is causing families to flee their home countries and make the perilous journey to the United States to seek asylum.”

CEO and Co-Founder of The Resurrection Project Raul Raymundo echoed a similar sentiment over the executive order. “The families seeking asylum in the United States are fleeing abuse, poverty, and violence. Separating children from their parents is immoral and adds to the suffering of these families. We urge the administration to stop separating children from their parents and adopt a humane approach to families seeking asylum in the United States.” On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said 2,342 children have been separated from their parents since last month. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates two large detention centers for families in Texas and a smaller one in Pennsylvania, but their combined capacity is about 3,000 beds. As of mid-June, the three centers were nearly full, meaning ICE would potentially need to place children in its much larger network of immigration jails for adults. Before Trump’s announcement, several Democratic lawmakers brought immigrant children to the House floor as the chamber opened Wednesday, and they later headed outside to continue their protests against the separation practice -chanting “Shame! Shame!” and vowing to keep up public pressure against the policy. Alongside immigration advocates and children outside of the U.S. House of Representatives, House Democrats demanded that the Trump administration immediately end their inhumane policy. “Taking children from their parents has touched a cord and is pulling on the hearts of the American people in a way I have not seen previously on immigration matters in the past,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL). “Americans rightly see in the children the faces of their own children and have the natural instinct to want to protect them. I am proud that so many of my Democratic colleagues and fellow countrymen are answering the call by standing up to President Trump on this great injustice.”

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