FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | June 5, 2018
On Monday, June 4, the executive director of the Tahirih Justice Center’s Houston office, Anne Chandler, and her team went to the border city of McAllen, Texas. There they observed individuals seeking protection in the United States awaiting prosecution and sentencing. Many had been separated from their children.
“I saw dozens upon dozens of heartbroken parents who didn’t know the whereabouts of their children,” said Chandler.
“One father was shaking as he explained that he didn’t know if his child had been fed or is being mistreated. Another parent asked if his son would have to wear shackles to court. A mother was desperate to know if her daughter would be given her medicine to treat her epilepsy.”
Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy toward individuals crossing the border between ports of entry, including those who are seeking asylum protection under U.S. law. Part of this policy includes forcibly separating parents from their children upon apprehension at the border, both as a deterrent for arriving and so that the parents might then be criminally charged with illegal entry. In less than two weeks, more than 600 children had been separated from their parents.
“This is cruel, inhumane, and exceptionally harmful treatment for already traumatized families. We have an obligation to offer protection, not to prosecute and treat refugees this way. This is without question a very dark moment in our nation’s history,” said Chandler.
While in McAllen, Anne and her team met with federal public defenders who will be representing parents to share information about the immigration consequences of their conviction, and they met with parents to guide them about the immigration legal process the children will enter as well as the process the parents will face. The Tahirih team in McAllen also distributed written material to parents about what tools and resources they will be able to use to locate the whereabouts of their children.
About the Tahirih Justice Center
The Tahirih Justice Center is the largest national direct service and policy advocacy organization focused on assisting immigrant women and girls fleeing violence. Tahirih will continue to monitor policy shifts that impact women and girls fleeing violence and advocate for the United States to honor its legal obligations to protect those fleeing human rights abuses.