Global Washington Members Respond to Evolving Trump Administration Policy on Family Separation at the U.S. / Mexico Border

In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy for anyone crossing the US-Mexico border between ports of entry without proper documentation, including people seeking asylum, and said federal prosecutors would begin criminally prosecuting them.

As a result of this policy, the Department of Homeland Security reported that 2,342 children were separated from their parents between May 5 and June 9, an average of 65 children a day. Separated children were then considered “unaccompanied” minors, falling under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

This policy continued until an executive order was signed on June 20, replacing family separation with family detention. According to The Department of Homeland Security, as of June 20 more than 2,000 separated minors are still housed in HHS-funded facilities.

Global Washington members are responding to this evolving situation. Statements by member organizations are listed chronologically.

Kids In Need of Defense (KIND)

In a statement released June 21, KIND President, Wendy Young, said:

“President Trump’s Executive Order would allow the United States to hold immigrant children in jail-like conditions for an indefinite period of time. It leaves the “zero tolerance” policy intact, resulting in parents still being criminally prosecuted at the border, and could eliminate all standards governing the Department of Homeland Security holding of immigrant children in custody. It is no solution – it simply trades one abhorrent policy for another.

“It also denies access to fair hearings as it fast tracks immigration hearings, even ahead of those who have committed crimes in the U.S.

“It ignores a real solution – to keep families together by placing them into community-based community alternatives that have proven to be effective – nearly 100 percent of the families in these alternative programs have appeared for their immigration hearings. These programs are also far less expensive – dollars per day versus hundreds of dollars a day.

 “It also for the first time introduces a military role on a formal basis into immigration detention, further militarizing our immigration system.

 “Finally, the Executive Order does nothing to address the root causes of these families’ flight – the pervasive narco-trafficker and gang-violence that threatens the families, and particularly children, daily. The Trump Administration eliminated the Central American Minors program, the only way Central American children in danger could apply for protection in the U.S. from their home country.

 “We cannot be a nation that puts immigrant children in jail and throws away the key. Saying that the Executive Order is an end to family separation is a cynical misrepresentation that has nothing to do with the well-being of families and is another act of abject cruelty towards immigrant children.”

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)

On June 21, NWIRP released a statement on the executive order, “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation”:

NWIRP does not view the executive order issued yesterday as a positive development because it swaps one form of trauma (family separation) for another (indefinite family detention). And indefinite family detention has already been found to be unlawful in addition to being inhumane. The executive order also has not changed the reality on the ground that thousands of children are separated from their parents, including the over 45 parents we know are being detained at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac and the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, ICE has not provided any information on how they intend to reunify families that have already been separated and we will reject any reunification that would mean that parents and children will continue to be detained.

Jorge Barón, NWIRP Executive Director also said at a news conference June 21 that his organization will file a lawsuit “on behalf of the parents” separated from their children who are now being held in Washington state.

In a statement about the class-action suit, NWIRP said:

The government has no legitimate purpose to separate these families while they go through civil immigration proceedings. Our suit seeks to ensure these parents and their children are reunited as soon as possible, and allowed to continue their asylum claims together.

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

On June 20, IRC Vice President, U.S. Programs, Said Hans Van de Weerd, responded to the executive order on family separation:

“The Executive Order signed today is not a solution for families seeking much-needed asylum and does nothing to reunite the thousands of children who have already been separated from their parents at the border. The administration is replacing one form of cruelty with another.

“The executive order continues the disturbing criminalization of asylum, in a break with the very treaty obligations the United States helped craft after WWII. It proposes detaining children and their families for the length of their proceedings—which can often take many months or over a year—despite obligations to release children promptly.

“IRC continues to urge the Administration and Congress to reverse course on numerous, troubling erosions to long-standing, bi-partisan protections. Central American children, and their families, have suffered enough.”

World Vision U.S.

On June 20, World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns tweeted about the executive order:

“Encouraged to see Congress & the President working on a compassionate response to keep families & children together. This should never have happened. Parents help kids make sense of difficult & scary events. Work needs to continue to reunite families & support impacted children.”

On June 15, World Vision posted the following statement about family separations at the border:

As a child-focused Christian organization, World Vision believes that God intended that children be cared for and protected in a family environment, and urges the U.S. Government to find family centered and child-focused solutions to immigration detention.

While the U.S. needs to address real concerns about our immigration system, children and families should not suffer in the process. The single most important relationship for all children, especially those at risk of violence or in high stress situations, is that of a parent. Separating children from their parents can have a devastating long-term effect on children’s mental, physical, and emotional development.

As a Christian organization, we believe God calls us to be His co-workers in defending the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the powerless. Jesus tells His disciples to “bring the little children unto me.”

We call for a compassionate response for all the children and families involved.

Mercy Corps

Though it does not often comment on U.S. domestic issues, in a statement on June 19, Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer said:

“We urge the Trump administration to end this shameful practice immediately. At a time when there are more people displaced from their homes than at any point since WWII, it is imperative that governments commit to basic principles of decency in how vulnerable people and families who are fleeing violence are treated. Foremost among those principles is a commitment to protecting children.”

Read the entire statement:


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, in an email to all Microsoft employees and posted on his LinkedIn page on June 19, noted that he felt the issue keenly, as both “a parent and an immigrant.”

“This new policy implemented on the border is simply cruel and abusive, and we are standing for change.”

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In a blog post dated June 19, Microsoft President Brad Smith detailed the company’s position on immigration policy currently before Congress. He also highlighted the company’s 2008 co-founding of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND).

University of Washington

As a trained child clinical psychologist, UW President Ana Mari Cauce described in a blog post on June 18 the impact of separating children from their parents and why this practice must end:

“The damage for children is especially acute and can interfere not only with mental health and emotional development, but with brain development itself. The fact that American tax dollars are being used to knowingly inflict lifelong trauma on children is a stain on our national character.”

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