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Women's Refugee Commission Condemns Trump Administration for Considering Formalizing Policy of Forcibly Separating Parents and Children at the U.S. Border

Washington, D.C. – As reported yesterday by the New York Times and The Washington Post, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering formalizing a policy of separating parents and children who arrive often seeking protection at the southern border of the United States. The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) and other organizations have extensively documented the impact of such separations when they occur, in our report, Betraying Family Values.

Incidents of forced family separation have increased at an alarming rate in recent months. A recently filed complaint detailed cases of babies as young as one and two years old separated from their parents and rendered “unaccompanied.” As the American Academy of Pediatrics already noted in a statement earlier this year, authorities should “exercise caution to ensure that the emotional and physical stress children experience as they seek refuge in the United States is not exacerbated by the additional trauma of being separated from their siblings, parents or other relatives and caregivers.”

Although former DHS Secretary Kelly threatened such a policy earlier this year, he had since committed on the record that such separations would not occur except in rare circumstances where there was a danger to the child.

Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at Women's Refugee Commission made the following statement:

“Formalizing a policy of forcibly separating families seeking asylum in the U.S. is inhumane, traumatic, and unnecessary and will not make America any safer. Such a policy flies in the face of domestic and international child welfare and refugee principles and laws and would even further undermine U.S. obligations to ensure policies protecting family unity. Women, children and families fleeing violence do not make the decision to flee lightly; they do so only when they feel they have no other choice. The response should not be to try to deter them with detention or separation, especially when there are cost-effective and humane alternatives to detention programs, such as the recently terminated Family Case Management Program, to release families to sponsors and communities from which they can present their case.”