For decades, the U.S. has been doing “catch and release,” which means we allow anyone with an accompanying minor to declare they are seeking asylum. (Sources: Dept. of Homeland Security, U.S. Court of Appeals)
- Then, they are released on their own recognizance into the U.S., since minors cannot be detained for longer than 20 days, according to a 1997 court decree, reinforced in a June 2016 court ruling against the Obama Administration. Many who are released do not turn up for their later asylum court dates. (Sources: Dept. of Homeland Security, U.S. Court of Appeals)
- Having a minor with you functions as a “get into the U.S. free” pass. This encourages both child trafficking and parents bringing their young children on a very dangerous journey. (Sources: Dept. of Homeland Security, U.S. Court of Appeals)
Here are the current actions taken by the Trump Administration:
- In April 2018, the President signed a memo directing the Administration to take steps to quickly end “catch and release.”
- In response, the Administration began a “zero tolerance” policy starting in early May.
- In June, the Administration signed an executive order to end the separation of children and their parents at the border.
- In September, the Administration proposed new rules to end the 20-day rule to be able to detain families together while they await immigration proceedings.
- The proposal is undergoing a 60-day period of public comment (ending 11/06/18) before it can be finalized.
- In the interim, the Administration is required to do “catch and release.”
- Sources: The New York Times, Business Insider, The Washington Post
- For 6 weeks during the summer of 2018, under a “zero tolerance” policy, children were detained separately from their parents at the border.
- Children and parents separated at the border were initially detained in holding cells separated by chain-link dividers.
- These holding cells are in Customs and Border Protection facilities.
- They were used during the summer of 2018 for separated children, the same way they were used in 2014 during a wave of unaccompanied children arriving at the border.
- Within 3 days, children were moved to other facilities managed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.
- These facilities are different and more comfortable than CBP facilities; they have beds, rooms, classes, and games.
- Source: NPR
- According to USA Today, as of September 2018, 416 children are still separated because their parents are outside the U.S., waived rights to be reunited with their child, are in jail on separate criminal charges, or may pose a danger to the child. It has long been U.S. policy to separate families under circumstances like these. (Sources: USA Today, The Hill)