Separating Families at the Border, aka “Unaccompanied Minors” | Facts at the Border

During the presidential campaign, then candidate, Donald Trump promised to uphold our nation’s immigration laws.  True to his word, his administration is doing just that, upholding the law.

Under then President Bill Clinton, the Flores v. Reno Settlement Agreement of 1997 was established.  This remains the law today, and requires government to release children from immigration detention, with preference given to, parents, adult relatives, or licensed charity programs willing to accept custody.  If there is no one to take custody of the child, they cannot be released.  While Flores requires government to hold them in the “least restrictive” setting available, the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) was codified into the settlement, and remains in tact in the federal Flores law.

The ruling was challenged in 2015 in a U.S. District Court, with the Central District Court in California found that the Flores requirements applied to all minor children, regardless of whether they unaccompanied or children apprehended with their parents.  The District Court’s ruling meant that all minors must be released from detention if possible.  In 2016, under President Obama’s Administration, the appeals court affirmed that Flores applied to all children, but reversed the ruling that parents should be released as well.

President Trump, nor his administration has “changed the rules” regarding separating an adult from the child.  These are the same laws that have been on the books.  Separation occurs when the adult is criminally charged, same as any U.S. citizen, upon arrest.  Further, separation is mandated, under Flores, if officials find that the adult is not the child’s parent.  Lastly, under the codified child trafficking laws, incorporated into Flores, separation is mandated if there is a threat to the minor child.

Migrants who are charged with illegally crossing the border can be adjudicated in relatively short time.  They generally tend to plead guilty, and are then sentenced to time served.  This usually takes place within the 20 day detention for minors,  although backlog can vary from the border locale.  The children are then return to their parents, upon release, and are returned to the custody of ICE for processing.

While a variable of factors drive migration, the country saw a 95 percent surge in apprehensions under then President Obama, increasing from 40,000 in 2015 to 78,000 in 2016.  The sharp increase of migrants illegally crossing the border meant that available detention beds are not sufficient to hold families, even for the 20 days, provided under the Court ruling.  The issue creating prolonged separation is adults filing for asylum.  In this scenario, the adults are almost always going to be detained longer than government is allowed to hold children.

This is not new.  We’ve been here before.  History reflects that President Obama loaded the minors onto buses, delivering them to states, without notice.  Tennessee was recipient of 760 minor children in July 2014.

Tennessee has a rising homeless children & families crisis of it’s own, and is not only unable to assist their own citizens, they have insufficient plans in place for acknowledging, let alone addressing, the lack of sufficient housing units or shelter for Tennessee’s homeless citizen’s minor children.  See America’s Youngest Outcasts | Tennessee’s Homeless Children

homeless kids trappedEven if the Trump administration wasn’t enforcing our immigration laws, the government would still be very limited in how many families it can accommodate.  Like Tennessee, many states are facing a homeless crisis.  Numerous cities, and at least 2 states have declared “State of Emergency” to address the homeless issues they face.  Some, such as photographed here, have resorted to creating “detainment camps” for it’s own vulnerable citizens, such as children and their families, the elderly and disabled.

Photo credit: Free Thought Project

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