Children still held in custody, separated from their parents

Written by: Sarah Barnes
Date Posted: December 7, 2018

The U.S. government is still holding 171 children in detention who were separated from their parents at the U.S. border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. These children have been separated from their parents and held in custody for as long as six months. More than 80 percent of these children have parents who have been deported, and many of these parents are waiting to hear whether the administration will allow them to re-enter the U.S. to pursue their asylum cases and be reunited with their children.

According to immigration experts, most parents who were deported while the administration’s zero tolerance policy was in effect were not given an adequate opportunity to seek asylum. Experts say many parents were coerced into signing deportation forms after being falsely told it was the only way to reunite with their children. Other parents failed the initial steps of their asylum cases because they were too emotionally devastated after being separated from their children.

The administration will now decide by Dec. 15 whether to let any or all of these parents, a number of whom legal experts have already identified as having valid asylum claims, cross back over the U.S. border to pursue their asylum cases and be reunited with their children.

A court ordered the administration to reunite all children they separated from their families by July 26. The administration failed to meet the deadline, in many cases because parents were deported and no longer in the U.S.

We know that holding children in detention for any length of time, even with their parents, has significant and long-lasting consequences for the safety, health, development and well-being of children. We cannot undo the harm caused to children as a result of being separated from their parents and held in detention, but it is critical that these children be released from detention and reunited with their parents without delay. If we want to live in a country where our own children feel safe and loved, then we must make it true for every child in our care—no matter their country of origin.

Sarah Barnes

About Sarah Barnes

Sarah serves as the Policy Analyst for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign in September 2014, Sarah taught middle school English and worked as an Interventionist at Pioneer Charter School in Denver. She was a 2011 Teach For America corps member. Prior to teaching, Sarah worked as an attorney in Denver in the areas of venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, general corporate and business law, and commercial transactions. Sarah earned a BA in English from Midland University and a J.D. from the University of Michigan.