Taking children from their parents has been a strategy for terrorizing people for centuries. Children were taken from Native American Tribes, from African American enslaved people, and from European Jews during WWII. Now, the Trump administration is taking children from Central American asylum seekers. These practices, which prevent parents from passing on culture and language to their children and often result in life-long trauma for parents and children , have been driven by a white nationalist ideology that continues to dehumanize people of color and anyone else perceived as “other.”

In April 2018, Trump announced a Zero Tolerance Policy , which separated families who had illegally crossed the southern border. The practice had been going on for nearly a year before that, and even though, due to public outcry, it was deemed unconstitutional in June 2018, it continued unofficially until October. Under this policy parents and guardians seeking asylum who crossed the border without documents were arrested and put in federal jails while their children were placed in detention centers under supervision of the Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) until they could be released to sponsors. HHS did not keep track of where the children were placed and there were no protocols created to help reunite the families .

In April 2020 a federal judge, Dolly Gee, again determined that I CE was violating the Flores agreement , (which states that children cannot be held longer than 20 days), as well as putting children in detention at unnecessary risk of contracting COVID. In response, ICE tried to skirt the Flores agreement by giving arrested families an unthinkable “ binary choice :” stay with your children in detention for an undetermined amount of time, with no limit on how long you will be detained, or release your children to the Department of Health and Human Services, (where they would either be held in a child detention facility or released to an unknown sponsor). So far, not a single family has signed a waiver releasing their children, and many families are now being held together in detention centers, which are hotbeds for Covid-19 because of cramped and unsanitary conditions with no way to maintain social distancing, and where there is a lack of the most basic necessities.

Just this past week Judge Gee, in light of a significant COVID infestation at two family detention centers, ruled again that the children in these detention centers must be released by July 17 , but the order allows ICE to decline to release a child if there is not a suitable sponsor, or if the child’s parent waives rights under the Flores agreement.” We need to keep advocating for these children and insist that they be released together with their families during the COVID crisis.

Please sign this petition asking for families to be released together, and call your members of Congress and ask them to do what they can to get these children AND their families released! 


In recent weeks, under the excuse of COVID-19, many children and parents have been pulled from detention and deported in secret operations. According to Thomas Cartwright of Witness at the Border, from March through May there were a total of 41,557 expulsions of asylum seekers from Central America and Haiti with no due process. Among them were 2100 unaccompanied children. 
Since the onset of COVID-19 the U.S. is choosing not to extend protections to unaccompanied minors, a change from their long-standing policies . These crossings are often a last resort effort by desperate parents living in unsafe, terrible conditions in tent camps and on the streets in cities along the Mexican side of the border under MPP (Remain in Mexico). Families live in these camps as their only choice after a hard and frightening journey north, from a country where they were threatened with gang violence, murder and poverty. Sometimes when the hope of asylum seems diminishingly small, parents see no other option but to make the excruciatingly difficult choice to send their child across the border alone, hoping the child will find safety in the US. At other times, young teens are making that choice themselves, despite the concerns of their parents. 
As COVID has also been used as an excuse to close all ports of entry and put a hard stop on what remains of the asylum-seeking process, these children come across the river, alone on a raft, or with a paid coyote, or with a parent who then leaves them on the US side of the river. Before the pandemic, they were placed in detention or other holding sites and sometimes transferred to sponsors in this country to await court proceedings, where they would be given no legal representation and usually be slated for deportation. If they had family members in the US already, those family members, often undocumented, would frequently not come forward to claim the child, out of fear they themselves would be deported, which happened often.
Now these children are often immediately deported, alone, without even the show of a court proceeding.   When unaccompanied children are expelled/deported, their parents/family often do not know where they were sent. And if they have family in the country they are deported to, these family members are often not notified the child will be arriving. 
When most of us hear these stories, we react with incredulity and outrage. How is it possible that anyone, let alone the US government, which is supposed to stand for the humanitarian values of “liberty and justice for all,” would intentionally create these conditions and this suffering? Of course the answer must be, as it was when children were sold away from enslaved people from Africa, torn from their mothers’ arms at the auction block, or when Native American children were incarcerated in “boarding schools” where they suffered physical and sexual abuse, that the people who suffer are not seen as people in the same way that white people are. The interests of the state to secure a free labor supply, or to steal people’s land, or to prevent migration in order to safeguard white interests, take precedence. Indeed, this is just another example of how racism works in this country, the same system that allows a white policeman to kneel on the neck of an African American young man until he is dead. 
We need to continue our public outcry for these children and their families. In this time when so many are suffering, and so much change is needed, there are a lot of places to put activist energy and advocacy efforts. Please consider talking about this crisis with anyone you are connected to and consider making donations to the following organizations: 

The ACLU, which is bringing numerous suits to stop the detention and deportation of children at our southern border.

Lawyers for Good Government , RAICES , Al Otro Lado and ProBar all provide legal services for asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants.