Go to Press Releases library
Press Releases

Women’s Refugee Commission Statement on New Congressional Report on Family Separation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee released a report documenting the findings of a 21-month investigation into the Trump administration’s family separation policy. Among other findings, the report reveals that the Trump administration began formulating its family separation policy as early as one month into the new administration, and that they went to great lengths to continue to expand the policy even after they were aware that they would be unable to reunify families due to the lack of adequate tracking mechanisms.

The report comes just one week after news emerged that the parents of 545 children separated by the Trump administration still have not been located, in large part due to the government’s poor recordkeeping, which has hampered and delayed searches. The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) is part of the court-appointed steering committee tasked with locating separated parents and will continue its years-long work to make sure all the separated parents are reached.

The Trump administration continues to deny that there were any issues with the policy and is continuing its harmful practice of both separating families at the border and detaining families together. In ongoing litigation over the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement that governs the U.S. treatment of all migrant children in its custody, the government is refusing to release children from detention together with their parents. Instead, a new “notice of rights protocol” is being considered that would force parents to choose between being detained with their children indefinitely or separated if they “consent” to their children being released without them. Both practices are at odds with the child protection and welfare principles that are the cornerstone of the Flores Agreement, and both detention and separation have been determined to be traumatic for children. The government’s position presents the situation as a necessary choice—ignoring the reality that the government can legally release families from custody together, without separation.

In response to yesterday’s report and these ongoing developments, Leah Chavla, senior policy advisor, Migrant Rights and Justice Program at WRC, issued the following statement:

“The House Judiciary Committee’s report, coupled with the ongoing developments of the last two weeks, drive home again and again that this administration has no qualms about permanently traumatizing children and their parents, either by tearing them apart or subjecting them to punitive and inappropriate detention. It is unconscionable that the Trump administration subjected families to this cruelty and now continues to stand by and even double down on its attempts to punish families seeking safety by locking them up together, separating them, or denying them any opportunity to seek asylum altogether.

“The Women’s Refugee Commission is especially grateful to the Committee for its ongoing leadership in continuing to expose the deliberate, systematic cruelty the Trump administration inflicts on families and others seeking protection in the United States. Those responsible must be held to account. This report—and the administration’s ongoing refusal to release families from detention—underscores that it is time once and for all for the U.S. government to end the detention and separation of families. There are compassionate and humane approaches the government knows it can turn to instead. We can—and must—do better.”