A mother whose daughter was ripped away from her arms while breastfeeding. A grandmother seeking asylum who got separated from her 16-year-old grandson with disabilities. A five-year-old child placed with foster parents after being taken away from his father. A father who died by suicide after being separated from his wife and three-year-old son.
The directive is part of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' efforts to overhaul the immigration system. In the last year, Sessions unsuccessfully tried to put a stop to President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, slapped case quotas on immigration judges, and most recently, issued an order that would block most survivors of domestic abuse and gang violence from receiving asylum.
Before the directive went into effect, the administration was already splitting families apart. The New York Times reported that between October 2017 and April 2018, nearly 700 families were separated. Then, the Department of Homeland Security announced that nearly 2,000 children had been separated from their parents over the span of just six weeks, from April 19 through May 31.
Since there's been a surge in the number of children placed in detention after the policy went into effect, the Trump administration is planning to start building new tent cities at military posts in the state of Texas to shelter these kids. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has told the U.S. that the practice of separating families violates the children's rights and international law.
MSNBC reporter Jacob Soboroff had the opportunity to visit a former Walmart, now used as a detention center in Brownsville, TX. He tweeted: "This shelter, Casa Padre, is the largest licensed childcare facility of its kind in the country. Nearly 1,500 boys 10-17 in here now. They’re supposed to sleep four to room. Nearly every room has 5. They’ve received a variance from the state because of overcrowding."
According to Soboroff, the center hosts a mix of children who showed up unaccompanied to the U.S. and children who were separated from their parents. They get only two hours a day outside and the rest of the time is spent in the facility. Rooms are supposed to host four kids, but due to overcrowding, they're currently packing five children.
Advocates expect that the number of children separated from their parents and placed in detention will continue to surge in upcoming months.
Support advocacy organizations
South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR): This project of the American Bar Association is currently supporting over 1,000 unaccompanied children in detention centers across South Texas. Donate here.
Contact your elected officials
Don't underestimate the power of pressuring your elected representatives. There are several bills and resolutions floating around Capitol Hill to prohibit family separations at the border and support migrant children, including the Senate Democrats' Keep Families Together Act and the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act.
Get out there and protest
This story was originally published on June 14, 2018. It has since been updated.