The Battle to Stop Family Separation

This piece originally appeared at The New York Review of Books

In March 2017, John Kelly, then Secretary of Homeland Security, said in an interview with CNN that the Trump administration was considering a national policy to separate parents from their children to deter immigrants from crossing the border into the United States. The proposal triggered a backlash because it was so unpalatable, and the administration didn’t move forward with it. But six months later, in December 2017, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported that the administration was again considering the idea. At the same time, advocates who provide services to children in government custody told ACLU lawyers they were seeing children much younger than the teenagers they usually saw entering their facilities. As the stories began to multiply, the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project quickly realized that the administration wasn’t considering the separation of children from their parents—it was already doing it. 

For at least six months before then Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the zero-tolerance policy of prosecuting every adult who crossed into the United States without permission, which would result in more than 2,000 children being taken from their parents, the Department of Homeland Security had quietly began taking hundreds of children away from their parents to deter would-be asylum seekers from coming to the United States. 

We had no idea how many children had been taken from their parents, but we knew we needed to file a class action lawsuit to stop the practice. To do that, we needed to find the parents. In February 2018, we got a tip that there was a Congolese woman in an immigration detention in San Diego who said that her then six-year-old daughter had been taken from her when she entered the country three months earlier, in November. I lined up an asylum lawyer, a Lingala translator, and flew out to California immediately to meet with her. 

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Anonymous

Why not get the illegal aliens and asylum seekers to donate to cause.

Anonymous

ACLU is censorship my comments because they hate true facts. This is what they are fighting for but it is not true they will censorship of it is what they don’t like.

Anonymous

Do you really know anything about theses people? Have they been vetted? Do they have any mental health issues? Does American taxpayers have to pay for their medical bills? Do they have any social std? Have they been vaccinated for measles etc? Do they have cancer and does the American taxpayers have pay for their treatment? Are some of women to have babies and if so does the American taxpayers have pay? Are men members of a gang? Are they rapists? Are they child abuser? Are in child pornographers? Are they murders? Are they drug abuser or alcohol abuser? Are abuser towards women? Do they or their children talk English or does the American taxpayers have to pay for these? Do they have any money to live in America while their case in court? Who is going take care of them? American taxpayers have to pay for their children education which is wrong.

Anonymous

I guess ACLU is GOD along with the Democratic Party,open borders people and liberals. What about the American children who need home and or homeless what about their needs? Do really care about illegal aliens and their children over American children and their parents? What about the laws of America ? I guess you can break them when it suits you. I guess the illegal aliens come first and the American citizens/children come last. Hospital bills go up because illegal aliens cannot pay so the Americans citizens have to pay for their medical bills with higher cost. Property taxes get higher because American citizens have to pay for their children education with extra teachers to teach them English and help them catch them up. Teachers needed less students in the classrooms. The AMERICAN STUDENTS suffer because of illegal aliens children.

Ms. Gloria Anasyrma

Where is my previous comment?

Anonymous

Well they should have stay in there own countries. They put their own children in harms way. They are using their children as human shield so they cannot be deported or put in detention.

Anonymous

What about the AMERICAN ARMED SERVICE MEN and WOMEN who are separated from their families and children who are fighting for our freedom. You and everyone else can see that these illegal aliens/asylum seekers will never fight for their own families or their freedom because it easier for be a leeches in America. If they cannot fight for their own children what make you think that will fight for AMERICA citizens/children. They will have anchor babies after anchor babies so the AMERICAN TAXPAYERS will have to support them.

Anonymous

I guess that aclu is censorship my comment about veterans to leave their families to fight for American citizens freedom and not illegal aliens which would never fight for their children or their families. I bet that the aclu staffs never fought for American citizens freedom only for illegal aliens.

Anonymous

If these people stay in their own countries America wouldn’t have trump as president.

Anonymous

Dear Mr Lee Gelernt
Deputy Director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project:

I rec'd your email today, and have rec'd over the years requests for donations that I honored until the ACLU REFUSED to address the massive and egregious child separations occurring EVERY DAY within US borders. NCCPR's Richard Wexler wrote that the number originally cited as having been separated at the border (over 2000) are separated EVERY THREE DAYS by CPS agents. My case and those of MANY other parents I have communicated with reveals that most of the cases involve allegations of simple neglect, and in my case and many others, it is proved that CPS agents lied about parents and kin and violated due process rights of AMERICAN CITIZENS in their petitions seeking child removals. I, a deprived grandmother and a deprived mother in NC took our cases all the way to the US Supreme court, which refused to hear them. I even proved that at least one NC law itself is unconstitutional, and CPS broke at least 20 others that were passed to protect constitutional rights.

Several times, I contacted the state and national ACLU BEGGING you to address this OUTRAGE.
You did NOTHING. YOUR EXCUSE, GIVEN THE GRAVITY OF THESE VIOLATIONS AND THE LONG TERM EFFECTS ON HUNDREDS OF THOUSAND OF CHILDREN was as lame as it gets.

Don't misunderstand me, I do not object at all to legitimate child protection or to you helping the parents seeking asylum and fighting THIS horrible injustice occurring at the border - this traumatizing of children and families who have already been traumatized.

BUT to seem to care so much for so few in comparison to the massive numbers being equally traumatized and violated within the US and showing by your inaction the lack of caring at all for the latter, simply makes no sense.

I feel no bitterness about what you are doing at the border, as some of the deprived families in the US are feeling, understandably so since you are ignoring their pain and the violations committed in mass against them. But I DO expect you to address BOTH.

I am sick of your lame excuses and hearing how you work to protect rights regarding some issues that are not really priorities by comparison - as your excuse for not having resources to deal with the atrocity of ALL needless and unlawful child separations.

Just as in the case with the border, there ARE LAWS in place to protect the children and protect parents - but THESE LAWS ARE BEING SYSTEMATICALLY BROKEN, and those who break them are protected by unjust absolute immunity (in most circuits). Even though Hardwick v Vreeken set a precendent in NINTH circuit that caseworkers are not protected when they LIE on petitions, that decision is NOT recognized in the Fourth and other circuits, so you can't even sue them for damages - NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO OR HOW MANY LAWS THEY BREAK.

And the US Supremes, the state COA and Supreme Court have shown that they do NOT care.

So WHO will? you have shown that you will not! Will you change and protect ALL children from this kind of gov't abuse?

I don't have money to help you do anything else because I've had to pay for the fruitless effort of trying to obtain justice via our broken justice system.

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