Pressure to end Trump family-separation policy intensifies

President Donald Trump checks out prototypes for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall during a March visit to San Diego, Calif. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo)

WASHINGTON — Democratic attorneys general in 20 states and Washington D.C., the nation’s largest Latino civil rights group, and religious organizations and other nonprofits demanded Tuesday that the Trump administration halt its policy separating children from illegal immigrant parents.

The demands came as congressional Democrats — joined by some Republicans — called for an immediate halt to the policy.

“We should be able to agree that we will not keep kids in child internment camps indefinitely and hidden away from public view,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said at a hearing. “What country is that? This is the United States of America!”

Thomas A. Sentz, president and general counsel of the Latino civil rights group, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), went so far as to call for the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the architect of the April “zero-tolerance” policy in which the government seeks to prosecute all illegal immigrants.

Sentz tweeted:

“Our nation’s soul is at stake,” Saenz said. “The simple truth is that the Trump administration is, on a daily basis and on a scale that is horrific to grasp, terrorizing toddlers, traumatizing children, debasing family values, and assaulting the love of parents, all in the name of a grotesque ‘zero-tolerance’ that demeans every person involved.

“Routinely separating parents and children is not – and cannot ever be – legitimate public policy. It is immorality. It is cruelty. It is illegality. It is perhaps one of the starkest modern embodiments of inhumanity.”

The outcry comes after the Trump administration announced Friday that in April and May, nearly 2,000 children have been separated from parents being criminally prosecuted for crossing the border illegally.

President Donald Trump, Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have defended the policy, and Trump has repeatedly blamed Democrats for the policy. But no federal law requires the government to separate children from parents being prosecuted as illegal immigrants.

Republican governors of Maryland and Massachusetts — along with Democratic governors in New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Virginia – said they would no longer deploy National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border unless the Trump administration abandons the separation policy.

‘Wrong and immoral policy’

Also demanding an immediate end to the border-separation policy Tuesday: Leadership 18, a coalition of CEOs from the nonprofits, with a  total of 87 million members. The coalition includes Catholic Charities USA, Lutheran Services in America, the Salvation Army, the Jewish Federations of North America, the United Way Worldwide, the American Red Cross and the YMCA.

“Separating immigrant children from their parents when they come to the border should never be a part of American policy,” the coalition said in an open letter signed by the 18 organizations.

“We call on the Trump Administration to immediately stop this wrong and immoral policy that has resulted in more than 2,000 children being needlessly separated from their parents while their parents are being processed at our borders.”

Meantime, the 21 AGs, led by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, sent a letter Tuesday to Sessions demanding the attorney general and Nielsen end “the cruel and illegal attacks on children and families lawfully seeking asylum in the United States as they seek protection from domestic, sexual and gang violence.”

“Put simply, the deliberate separation of children and their parents who seek lawful asylum in America is wrong. This practice is contrary to American values and must be stopped. We demand that you immediately reverse these harmful policies in the best interests of the children and families affected,” the letter reads.

The AGs said the separation policy detracts from law enforcement efforts to prevent and prosecute crimes — including human trafficking, drug trafficking, and gang violence offenses –that “require the efforts and collaboration of law enforcement officials across both state and international borders to prevent the widespread and syndicated perpetration of these crimes.”

AGs in California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state signed the letter to Sessions.

ACLU looks to court to end policy

Meantime, the American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday it’s hopeful a federal judge in San Diego will end the separation policy.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, ACLU officials noted U.S. District Court Judge Dana M. Sabraw on June 6 had refused a Trump administration request to dismiss the group’s legal challenge to the policy.

Sabraw, who expanded the suit into a class action representing all families separated under the policy, said the policy could violate the U.S. Constitution’s right to due process.

Sabraw wrote that the separation policy could violate the Constitution’s due process clause.

Referring to the ACLU’s claims, Sabraw wrote: “Such conduct, if true, as it is assumed to be on the present motion, is brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency. The facts alleged are sufficient to show the government conduct at issue ‘shocks the conscience’ and violates Plaintiffs’ constitutional right to family integrity.”

During the conference call, Lee Gelernt, the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project deputy director, told reporters: “One parent did not get their child back for eight months” though parents typically wait only a few days for a hearing. “The parents want to get their kids back.”

“In America, if you get out of jail you get your child back. The ACLU wants to know why you are not getting your child back.”

Some undocumented parents “are told they are taking their child away for a bath and the parent never see the children again,” Gelernt said, without providing specifics. “What the medical testimony shows is that the trauma is being taken away from the parents, not if coloring books are available. The trauma makes a vulnerability that lasts a lifetime.”

The ACLU lawsuit began with an attempt to force the Trump administration to reunite an asylum-seeking mother and her 7-year-old daughter fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They were been detained 2,000 miles apart for more than four months, the suit said.

The mother and daughter had arrived in a port of entry near San Diego, where an asylum officer determined her fear of persecution was credible, the suit says. But she was detained at a detention center in San Diego while her daughter was sent to a facility in Chicago.

The ACLU lawsuit cites what it calls violations of the Constitution’s due process clause, the federal law protecting asylum seekers, and the government’s directive to release asylum seekers.

This article is republished with permission from Talk Media News.