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Earlier this month, the government announced a new “zero tolerance” policy, which has resulted in the criminal prosecution of hundreds of individuals seeking asylum. The Tahirih Justice Center condemns this policy. It goes against this nation’s long-standing commitment to offer safe harbor to those whose lives, rights, and dignity are threatened in their home countries. While the adults are jailed and prosecuted, their children are ripped away and thrown into shelters. In less than two weeks, more than 600 children had been separated from their parents. This is cruel, inhumane, and exceptionally harmful for already traumatized families.

Recent news reports that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) had “lost” over a thousand children were misleading. In fact, ORR reached out by phone to unaccompanied children who had left its custody over a three month period, and successfully reached the majority through their guardians. However, there were 1,475 that they were not able to connect with by phone.

Focusing on this, or conflating it with the administration’s new policy, detracts from the very real tragedy occurring right before our eyes: 

The government is now wrongfully treating refugees like criminals and separating families at record numbers.

The “zero tolerance” policy will prevent those who are fleeing astounding levels of rape, murder, trafficking, and other persecution from seeking the protection they merit under the law. It is part of this administration’s multi-faceted attempt to undermine the asylum protections that were first established through binding international law, and later developed through decades of domestic advocacy and litigation.

At Tahirih, we are raising our voices with the administration and Congress to try and hold the line. We are participating in law suits, seeking Congressional oversight, working with coalitions, and talking with media. We circulated a petition to help us show the Attorney General that we stand together with women fleeing violence.

We refuse to turn a blind eye to policies that harm children and families and strip away life-saving protections for asylum seekers. Please support our work today.