The administration’s decision to separate families coming to the U.S. border to seek asylum has prompted some questionable justification about the policy.
From claims stating there is a “right way” to seek asylum to claims parents broke the law by seeking asylum, many of the statements the administration has made are simply false.
U.S. asylum laws are in place to give the opportunity of asylum to people who are qualified for protection. The U.S. is required under international law to allow folks to claim asylum if they have legitimate humanitarian claims and would be in danger if they were to return to their homes.
Here are some of the facts about asylum.
Claim: The administration has said, people who want to claim asylum should seek it the “right way”
Fact: There is more than one way to come to the United States and claim asylum.
· An official port of entry: Someone can claim asylum if they approach an official port of entry into the U.S. and present themselves to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Agents.
· Coming into the U.S. between ports of entry: Someone can claim asylum if they enter the U.S. in between ports of entry and are apprehended by CBP agents. While this is an illegal way to enter the country, the asylum claim is still legal.
· Even if someone enters the U.S. illegally, they have one year to claim asylum from the date of entry.
· Defensive asylum: Someone who is in removal proceedings may apply for asylum by filing an application with an immigration judge through the Executive Office for Immigration Review in the Department of Justice.
Claim: “If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally.” — Attorney General Sessions
Fact: The U.S. government has an obligation to allow asylum seekers to come in at official ports of entry.
· The U.S. government is prohibited under international law from turning away people with legitimate humanitarian claims. The Refugee Act of 1980 says the U.S. cannot send asylum seekers back to countries where their lives are in danger.
Claim: “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen
Fact: Data from the Department of Homeland Security paints a different picture.
· According to Department of Homeland Security, 2,342 children have been separated from adults at the U.S. border between May 5 and June 9.
Claim: “The Democrats have failed to come to the table, failed to help this president close these loopholes and fix this problem.” — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Fact: This administration has made the choice to implement a “zero tolerance” policy.
· The administration has eliminated funding for community-based alternatives, like the Family Case Management Program. When active, the FCMP pilot had 99 percent compliance rates with immigration requirements such as court hearings and immigration appointments.
What can Congress do?
Separating children from their mothers and fathers is cruel and unacceptable. It must stop.
The family separation policy is clearly not working.
· Using family separation as a disincentive for coming to the U.S. is clearly not working.
· Arrests at the border have increased over the last few months. If the policy were working, there would be fewer arrests because fewer people would be crossing the border.
Congress has proposed legislation to halt separation of immigrant families.
· I am an original cosponsor of the Keep Families Together Act. This bill would halt the separation of families coming across the border.
· I support H.R. 3923, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act to reform the immigration detention system by ending use of private facilities, repealing mandatory detention and increasing oversight, accountability and transparency of the immigration detention system.
· I am a cosponsor of H.R. 5950, the Human Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act. This bill would protect children whose parents are involved in immigration enforcement actions and keep children out of the child welfare system if it is not necessary to ensure children’s safety.
Congress must come together to find a permanent solution to end this cruel and unacceptable practice. Families coming to the U.S. to protect their children should not be forcefully separated once they arrive to the U.S. border.