Border Patrol Commissioner Kevin McAleenan’s Family Separation Denial

In an interview with the LA Times published early Monday morning, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan set out to clarify CBP’s systematic practice of separating children from their parents at the border. Rather than provide real clarification, however, McAleenan’s comments continued the trend of Trump administration officials attempting to justify this unprecedented and horrific policy by spinning the truth and, worse, by making specious claims with little to no basis in fact. 

When asked how CBP was handling family separations, McAleenan at first forcefully denied that an official policy regarding separating children from parents even exists: “We do not have a policy of administrative separation.” But, this is misleading. While the statement is technically true — the administration’s new “zero-tolerance” policy does not explicitly mention family separation — in practice, it is meaningless. Prosecuting every person who crosses the border somewhere other than a port of entry necessitates criminal detention. If a person has children with her, that necessitates taking the children away. As the AP has noted, “while separating families might not be official U.S. policy, it is a direct consequence of Sessions’ zero-tolerance approach.”

Tell Homeland Security to stop separating children from their families

As the interview went on, McAleenan’s statements only became more deceptive. When CBP separates families, McAleenan reasoned, it is “only if the adults are being prosecuted or if there’s a determination made by the agent there’s not actually a family relationship, which has happened several hundred times just in the sector this year.” A moment later, McAleenan clarified that figure: In the Rio Grande Valley sector this fiscal year alone, the commissioner claimed, there have been 600 cases of people “pretend[ing] to be families even if they’re not.” According to McAleenan, hundreds of smugglers a year are snatching children to bring with them as they cross into the U.S., all in the hopes that they will avoid detention if they pretend to be a family unit. 

But if this is true, why have we not seen equally large-scale prosecutions and convictions for child smuggling and trafficking? In fact, when pressed, the government fails to provide any evidence of such convictions. While we haven’t come across evidence of any massive child smuggling schemes, what we do have ample evidence of is CBP’s relentless practice of tearing children from their actual parents without making any effort to determine the parental relationship.

There is our client, Ms. L, for example, who, despite following the government’s own instructions for seeking asylum — crossing at an official port of entry — had her 7-year-old daughter taken from her with no explanation. The two were not reunited until 4 months later, and only after the ACLU filed a lawsuit and a federal judge ordered a DNA test, which proved maternity. Then there is Mirian G., who also sought asylum at a port of entry, and yet still had her 18-month-old son taken from her for over two months. In that case, Border Patrol agents ordered Mirian to strap her baby into a car seat while refusing to answer her repeated questions about why they were being separated. When McAleenan cites hundreds of cases in which there was suspected smuggling, it undoubtedly includes stories like those of our clients.

According to McAleenan, this massive smuggling scheme — for which there is no evidence — can be traced back to what he refers to as “the catch-and-release loophole” created by the settlement of the 2015 class-action lawsuit, Flores. In truth, though, Flores is not a loophole, it is a consent decree designed to prevent the prolonged detention of children. It requires that children be released from custody without unnecessary delay; that if they are detained, that they are kept in the “least restrictive setting” possible; and that standards be set for the basic care of children in detention. It would be perverse to cite a prohibition on jailing immigrant children as the reason for this administration's systematic separation of families.

If the Trump administration’s real priority was to ensure the wellbeing of children, then it would not have ended the Family Case Management Program, which allowed families to be released together, but into a program that would ensure that they appeared for court proceedings. Again, this is not a loophole, but rather an alternative to family separation that prevented needless and expensive detention. Moreover, it was hugely effective: The initiative boasted a 99.6 percent appearance rate at immigration court hearings for those enrolled in the program.

Clearly, though, this administration’s priorities have never been so noble. The true purpose of family separation is clear: To treat families seeking refuge in the U.S. so poorly that fewer people will do so in the future. Try as they might, no amount of dishonesty and spin on the part of McAleenan and other administration officials could disguise that fact.

Trump's Family Separation Crisis: How to Help

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American Communist Lawyers Union.


I agree with that. This issue is another smear campaign designed by Cargill, Monsanto, Tyson, IDP and other agriculture corporations to keep their lock on imported slave labor. Raising the minimum wage from 7.25 an hour to 15.00 will instantly solve the entire issue. Don't fall for the ACLU and the six media company's propaganda on the immigration debate. Resist their mind control.

Dr. Timothy Leary

Without the ACLU The Beatles would have been tarred and feathered when the first arrived here.


Our government and those who support this policy are advocating CHILD ABUSE as a deterrent to illegal immigration. Certainly there are more creative and humane ways to reach a mutually agreed upon objective to protect our borders. Inflicting pain upon those who are weak and lack resources is easy, devising a policy that uses cruelty as a means of control is easy (just look at how many dictators employ this tactic), whereas creating a workable solution to illegal immigration that reflects American values takes creativity, intelligence, compassion, and courage.


Really, there is nothing that "we the people" can do about this. I trained my H1B replacement. Highly qualified, I am considered too old to be employed. I do agree that if you do not go through a port of entry, children and adults should be separated until proven to be genetically related. But if you try to go through a port of entry, as is desired, it should not be so traumatic. I am totally against semi truckloads of [soon to be dead] illegal immigrants. I am totally against human trafficking. The threat to life is totally real. Look around the world, and not just at your own feet. Why do you think we have so many immigrants from India? It is too bad that these other countries continue to ignore human rights. Myanmar comes to mind. We need to build an army of immigrants to conquer countries that cannot control human abuses, like Mexico and their constant supply of heroin and cocaine, and no human protections from cartels. We could make this a better world.


Have you no shame?


It is not surprising that the majority of comments supporting the family separations have grammatical errors and incomplete sentences.


Do unto others as you would have them do to you


People applying for asylum are not breaking the law.

Asylum is a protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or at the border who meet the international law definition of a “refugee.” ... The Refugee Act established two paths to obtain refugee status—either from abroad as a resettled refugee or in the United States as an asylum seeker.

They are not criminals..they do not deserve to be tortured by taking their children from them. It is not a good is an abomination.


People seeking asylum, usually go to the closest country. Not 2-3 countries up. Also, do you people know what Aclu stands for? I capitalized the A for a reference. These people dont fit the A part of ACLU, so why is that your go to response?


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