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Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in May the Trump Administration's intent to separate parents and children who have illegally entered the United States through the southwest border.
Regardless of politics, parents across the country are looking for ways to help the children involved.
On June 20, President Trump signed an executive order he said would stop the separation of families at the border. It remains unclear how children already separated from their parents will be reunited with them, if at all. Many organizations are working to ensure that families are reunited.
How to help child immigrants
- Together Rising Love Flash Mob. Organized by best-selling author and blogger Glennon Doyle through her non-profit organization, the fundraising effort will go to provide bilingual legal and advocacy assistance for 60 children, aged 12 months to 10 years, currently separated from their parents in an Arizona detention center. Their first priority will be to establish and maintain contact between children and their parents, with the ultimate goal of reunification and safety and rehabilitation for the children.
- The Florence Project and Refugee Rights Project. This organization provides legal assistance and social services to detained immigrants in Arizona.
- The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. This organization works for the rights of children in immigration proceedings.
- Kids In Need Of Defense (KIND). This organization works to ensure that no child appears in immigration court alone without representation.
- Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project. They work to prevent the deportation of asylum-seeking families fleeing violence.
Debate over immigration policy
Sessions said the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security's “zero tolerance” policy is meant to deter would-be illegal immigrants from attempting to enter the U.S.
"If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It's that simple," said Sessions. "If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border."
Department of Homeland Security officials told reporters that 1,995 children had been separated from their parents over a six-week period, from April 19 to May 31. As reports emerged of children being housed in jail-like facilities, former first lady Laura Bush, among others, has spoken out against the policy of separating parents and children while the parents are prosecuted for illegally entering the country.
“I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart,” she wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece.
Liz Gumbiner, blogger at Cool Mom Picks, wrote: “I know this is a tough, complex issue in a lot of ways. But the inhumane treatment of children is not complicated in the least.”
Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s immigrants’ rights project, told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that the number of separations his group has seen is “unprecedented.”
“This is the worst thing I’ve seen in 25-plus years of doing this civil rights work,” Gelernt said. “I am talking to these mothers and they are describing their kids screaming, ‘Mommy, Mommy, don’t let them take me away!’
Families who enter illegally are prosecuted in criminal, rather than civil, proceedings. In January, a federal appeals court ruled that immigrant children don't have the right to a free lawyer.
Doyle said the reports from the southwestern border roused her "Mama Bear Fury," and she explained to TODAY Parents why she felt compelled to take action: "Parents are ensnared in the criminal system, their children are immediately ripped out of their arms without explanation, and parents and babies are sent to different detention centers, often hundreds of miles away from each other.”
This story was first published on May 29, 2018, and has been updated.