GEO Condemns the Trump Administration’s Detention & Separation of Families at the Southern US Border
We, the Graduate Employees Organization at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign IFT/AFT Local 6300 AFL-CIO, strongly condemn the detention and separation of families along the U.S.-Mexico border. Since the beginning of May 2018, more than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents or primary caregivers when apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol at the Southern U.S. border. The children were separated as part of President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy against unauthorized border crossings. The policy applies to adults regardless of whether they are traveling with children or not. This policy of separating children, some as young as 18 months, from their parents or primary caregivers is unique to the current administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that separating families at the border is meant to be “a deterrent” for future border crossers. In essence, children are being used as pawns in a hostile, anti-immigrant political environment.
Families are crossing the border seeking asylum as they try to escape violence and persecution in their home countries. Seeking asylum at a port of entry is not a crime but the Trump administration is treating it as such. There is no law requiring the separation of immigrant families at ports of entry. The Trump administration made the decision to charge people crossing the border with illegal entry and to charge asylum seekers in criminal court. Furthermore, the treatment of children is in direct violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) which specifies how the government must treat migrant children. The TVPRA requires that authorities place children in the “least restrictive setting possible.” That is not the case. Multiple sources have published pictures of children being kept in makeshift cages in holding facilities, in border states, such as Texas. Furthermore, the United Nations (U.N.) top human rights official, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, has spoken against Trump’s policy of separating families, stating that “inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable.”
The United States has a long history of separating families and ripping children from their parents’ arms. The Trump administration will go down in history along with the slave owners who tore children from their mothers and sold them into slavery. It will go down in history with previous government policies that separated Native American children from their families and placed them in boarding schools where they were forced to relinquish their cultural practices. Seperating children from their parents is not a novel tool of oppression by the United States government.
Following nationwide protests against the separation of families at the border, President Trump has signed an executive order to imprison families together. Families who are detained at the border will no longer be separated, but they will still be jailed and kept in inadequate and deplorable detention facilities. This executive order is not enough. This executive order does not change the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. Families seeking asylum will still be criminalized, traumatized, and treated as less than human. Furthermore, it is not clear whether, or when, the over 2,000 children who were separated from their families will be reunited with them. These children will continue to be held hostage.
Therefore, we, as graduate workers, students, and educators, condemn the current immigration policies and call for the abolishing of the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and an end to the criminalization of immigrants. We cannot wait for another mass immigrant grave to follow the one discovered in Texas in 2015. We call on Governor Rauner to join the governors of Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, Rhode Island, Colorado, New York, North Carolina, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Delaware and Oregon to withhold their respective National Guards from assisting immigration enforcement. And we call on the Trump administration to reunite the families who have been separated and to stop using children as tools in their political game.