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Call to Action: Separation of Immigrant Families

Barbara Eriv  | Published on 7/20/2018

The National League of Women Voters, along with 300 other organizations, signed a letter (see link, calling on Congressional leaders to "reduce funding for detentions and deportations and provide zero funding for an unnecessary border wall.”  

Many migrants arriving at our borders from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are fleeing violent persecution at the hands of their own governments and non-state actors.  These families have endured the trauma of uprooting themselves and making the dangerous trek from their home countries to apply for asylum in the United States.  The United States is a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention and has the legal obligation to handle the asylum claims of those reaching our soil.  Instead, between April and June, all asylum seekers reaching US borders were forcibly detained and their children taken away to separate shelters across the country with no means of communication.

With pressure from the public, and such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union and League of Women Voters, President Trump signed a June 21 executive order to end family separations going forward. However, the order did not:
  • Provide for family reunification for the more than 2500 children detained since April 2018. Presently, the US Health Department is holding these children up to age 17. Recently, the courts stepped in and gave federal officials an initial deadline of July 10 for youngest children and now an extension of July 26th to unite all children with their parents.
  • End the "zero tolerance" policy under which all adults caught crossing the border illegally are criminally prosecuted. Families crossing our border will continue to be apprehended, but will now be detained together. With existing facilities reaching or exceeding capacity, tent cities on military bases are hastily being constructed.
  • Comply with the 1997 Flores Settlement, requiring humane living conditions for detained migrant children, and limiting child detention to 20 days. Holding children in the same facility with their parents beyond 20 days, would be a violation of this settlement agreement.
  • Ensure due process for the growing number of families detained at our border due to the zero tolerance policy. Mass detentions will strain our immigration courts, already burdened with a 700,000 case backlog. The federal administration has now raised the prospect of bypassing the courts altogether and turning these immigrants away with no due process.
We are a country of immigrants facing a moral dilemma. As such, we can and must take action:
  • Challenge hateful language and myths against migrants. It is wrong and dangerous. Very few migrants are criminals, MS-13 gang members or people looking to go on welfare. They are ordinary men, women and children, many with viable asylum claims.
  • Call your elected representatives to demand the immediate reunification of migrant children with their parents. Urge them to reject Japanese-style internment camps, the zero tolerance policy, the violation of the Flores Settlement Agreement, and infringement of due process in immigration courts.
  • Support voter registration initiatives. Vote, and urge your friends and family to vote. The League of Women Voters knows that issues matter. This issue certainly does and is one more reason to get out and vote in 2018!
  • Support the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, a bill requiring the government to appoint counsel to unaccompanied children in immigration court, who too often do not have legal representation.
  • Donate to legal services or humanitarian organizations trying to support these migrant families.
  • Join the LWV Immigration Committee. We need more active members. Contact Barbara Eriv at for more information or for sharing your thoughts.