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Women’s Refugee Commission Responds to Proposal for Increased Separation of Families at the Border

Washington, DC — According to a Reuters report on Friday, a proposal being considered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would separate women and children crossing illegally at the border in order to deter mothers from migrating with their children in tow. At present, the majority of families awaiting asylum are detained for a few weeks where they are processed and pass a credible fear interview before being released for the remainder of their legal proceedings. The recent proposal would separate these families, retain parents in custody and move children into separate shelters and detention centers where they would go through proceedings alone.

The Women’s Refugee Commission strongly opposes this harrowing proposition and believes that separating children from their mothers at the border will deeply traumatize families and drive them further underground. The forced separation of mothers and children is cruel, inhumane, and runs counter to international principles of family unity and health. It will also come at a great financial cost.

Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program with the Women’s Refugee Commission, responded to Friday’s report with the following statement:

“I know of no civilized government that forcibly separates families as punishment for seeking protection. The government would be rendering these children unaccompanied simply to be cruel. This policy will not make us safer and will not stop families from seeking protection. These policies would drive vulnerable women and children straight into the hands of organized crime and gangs, where criminals are waiting in the wings, ready to exploit their need for safety, and make huge profits.

Forcing a mother who has made a dangerous journey through the desert, fleeing for her life, to decide between going back into the hands of her persecutors, or having her child taken away is beyond inhumane.  It is cruel and reprehensible.  What is a mother whose child’s life is at stake to do?

We have met women who have been separated from their children at the border.  They have described the horrific trauma of their child crying as they were taken from their arms.  They explained being told that they could either go home or have their child sent to a children’s facility where they could apply separately for protection.  It is an excruciating decision.  But for some mothers, going back to what they are fleeing is not an option.  They feel they have no choice but to hope that by staying in detention, and letting their child be taken, that they might eventually be safe.  The daily torture of sitting in detention, and not knowing what has become of their child is unimaginable.”


For more information contact: Michelle Brané, MichelleB@wrcommission.orgTessa Wiseman, tessa@newpartners.com

Also see WRC’s 10 Things to Know About How Trump’s Executive Order Will Harm Women and Children Seeking Protection here