Public Outcry Against Family Separation Is Working

As the public speaks out against these endeavors, the government has been forced to address the effects of their state-sponsored child detention policies.

Members of a Guatemalan immigrant family who tried to illegally cross to the United States arrive at the Air Force base in Guatemala City after being deported on July 10, 2018. Photo by Orlando Estrada/AFP/Getty Images.

The Trump administration missed a crucial deadline for family reunification this week.


On June 26, a federal judge ordered the government to reunite children under age 5 who had been separated from their parents after showing up at the border. The administration identified 75 children who were eligible, but the government didn’t manage to bring all of them back to their families.

Trump officials expected 34 families to be reunited, but 17 still had pending background checks. 10 parents were in criminal custody and could be reunified with their children once released.

Yet the government couldn’t find the parents of 20 of the children that were younger than 5. 12 had been deported, and eight were released in the United States. One parent and child who were separated might both be U.S. citizens. Officials are still trying to find the parent.

This inefficient process doesn’t bode well for a deadline that’s coming up in two weeks, when the rest of the estimated 3,000 children who were separated must be reunited with their parents, according to the court’s demands.

Dozens of women and their children, many fleeing poverty and violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, arrive at a bus station following release from Customs and Border Protection on June 22, 2018. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

An exodus

Meanwhile, court files documenting Trump’s family separation policy have been released as part of the State of Washington, et. al. v. Donald Trump lawsuit.

The documents show the cruelty of the policy that punishes people who are already fleeing hardship.

One immigrant mother who escaped domestic abuse in Guatemala said that officials told her that she would never see her daughter again. “I cannot express the pain and fear I felt at that point,” she said according to the documents.

Another mother recalls ICE officials telling her, “‘Don’t you know that we hate you people? We don’t want you in our country.’”

And a BuzzFeed investigation reveals inhumane treatment of pregnant women who are detained at the border, opening with a woman who miscarried while in detention. Officials refused to help her. “‘An official arrived and they said it was not a hospital and they weren’t doctors,’” she told BuzzFeed.

A man being held inside the Metropolitan Detention Center, which houses detained immigrants, responds to calls of encouragement from demonstrators on the street below on June 30, 2018, in Los Angeles. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

Effective outcry

Because of intrepid investigative reporting, the public is becoming aware of the harm the Trump administration has caused by its harsh immigration policies. As the public stands up to speak out against these endeavors, the administration has also been forced to walk back their family separation policy. This outcry has ranged from people informally protesting Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen as she ate at a Mexican restaurant to the massive Families Belong Together marches that on took place June 30.

Judicial advocates are also putting in the work. It’s because of various lawsuits that we know about the callousness which family separation is being carried out and that this reunification is happening in the first place.

And these protests are only the beginning of the collective actions that push back against these policies that tear families apart.

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