President Trump has been pressed to make changes to his immigration policy with critics claiming that he is separating children from their families at the border. President Trump is only enforcing a law that was inherited when he took office.
Since the 1990s, the federal government’s use of immigration detention on children and families has been overseen by the federal courts (thanks to a settlement called the "Flores settlement"), where restrictions kept most detention facilities and jails from being used to house families. When the Obama administration attempted to expand the detention of families in response to the "border crisis" in 2014, the federal courts stepped in to rule that under the Flores settlement, no family could be kept in detention for longer than 20 days.
Congress set a particular process as a way of fighting human trafficking that left Obama with not a lot of leeway. As part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the law tasks DHHS with finding a suitable family member for the child to be released unto or putting the child in long-term foster care.
Homeland Security Act of 2002: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/orr/programs/ucs/about
Prior to 2002, children who cross the border from Mexico or Canada are apprehended and screened within 48 hours and sent back unless they are considered human trafficking victims or have claims for asylum. Any unaccompanied Central American children who cross the border--and any other child who isn’t coming from Mexico or Canada--were turned over to a branch of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (which is no longer active). Children are then either released to a responsible family member or given long-term housing and care while going through the immigration court proceedings.
In 2005, President George Bush launched "Operation Streamline" along the Texas/Mexico border in response to a spike in apprehensions in the area. "We’re going to get control of our borders and make this country safer for all of our citizens," Bush stated.
The Bush administration’s Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff stated, "One of the things we committed to do was end "catch and release" by the end of the fiscal year 2006."
Building on the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Congress added some additional protections under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPRA) where Border Patrol is required to take child migrants not from Mexico into custody, screen them and then transfer them to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a part of DHHS.
ORR Guide: Children Entering the United States Unaccompanied
By 2008, Congress passed a law called the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victim Protection and Reauthorization Act, or the TVPRA. Included in the law was the attempt to close "loopholes" for Mexican children by coming up with newer, faster screening processes for children from contiguous countries, with the intent of having no children sent back to the danger they were trying to seek asylum from. Congress and the Obama administration agreed that it was important to send back tens of thousands of Central American children as quickly as possible, which would require changing the TVPRA to expand their screening process to Central American children, not just Mexican children. The TVPRA has been criticized by international observers for not protecting trafficking victims.
Obama responded to a young immigration activist who demanded Obama use his executive powers to halt deportations during a speech in San Francisco in 2013 about immigration reform: "If in fact I could solve all these problems without passing laws through Congress, then I would do so." Obama went on to add, "I’d use our democratic process to achieve the same goals that you want to achieve, but it won’t be as easy as just shouting. It requires us lobbying and getting it done."
According to splinternews.com, from October 1, 2013, to June 11, 2014, Border Patrol detained 378 unaccompanied children ages two or younger, according to data obtained by Fusion from the office of a high-ranking Democratic senator. Of those children, 95 were infants under 1-year-old. Official data from this time frame showed that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) logged 27 deportations of children under the age of two, suggesting the federal government has processed infants in the past. These children are often times sent across the border with paid smugglers, or older siblings.
In May of 2014, more than 52,000 immigrant children had illegally crossed the border with many thousands more expected. A bill, which had bipartisan support and unanimously passed in 2013 by House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), would require the Department of Homeland Security to establish a national plan to secure the border, and ultimately result in a 90% apprehension rate of illegal crossers within five years.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), wrote in a letter to President Obama in July of 2014, "The policies of your administration have directly resulted in the belief by these immigrants that once they reach U.S. soil, they will be able to stay here indefinitely."
As of 2014, a little over half of all children in immigration court ended up getting a "removal order"-a formal order of deportation. Just over a quarter have been allowed to stay, where the judge gave them legal status or because the judge would close the case while legal status was sought another way. All others were given "voluntary departure"--having to leave the country but didn’t have to face lasting legal consequences of deportation.
2005-2013 Results of Children in Immigration Court:
The government opened up a series of emergency shelters on Air Force bases to accommodate the surge of immigrants that became the child immigrant crisis of 2014 and Obama eventually asked Congress for an extra $1.4 billion to handle the rise in child migrants. In July 2014, Obama also announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, would coordinate a new multi-agency response.
Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, (R-VA) and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee at the time, called the increase of child migrants "an administration-made disaster." "And now President Obama is calling in FEMA to mitigate the damage," he said. "Word has gotten out around the world about President Obama’s lax immigration enforcement policies, and it has encouraged more individuals to come to the United States illegally, many of whom are children from Central America."
In November 2014, President Barack Obama administered executive action as he unveiled his plan to overhaul the U.S. immigration policy with three main goals:
- Build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel.
- Make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy.
- Take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who live in our country.--"Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws and I believe they must be held accountable, especially those who may be dangerous. Focus on felons, not families..criminals, not children."
Hillary in 2014 on immigration, "Send them home."
The DHHS placed 90,000 migrant children into sponsor care between 2013 and 2015. Exactly how many of those fell prey to traffickers is unknown, because of course, the agency doesn’t keep track.
There was a 92% increase in the amount of migrant children traveling without parents caught crossing the southwest border from October 2013 to October 2014 with most coming from three Central American countries: Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. More than 33,000 minors were apprehended that year in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas according to DHHS reports.
During the child migrant crisis in 2014, many blamed the influx of child migrants on the Obama Administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA, which gave temporary protection from deportation and work eligibility to some unauthorized migrants. One of two bills that were passed by the House of Representatives in response to the crisis in August of 2014 was a bill to end the DACA program. (Neither bill was able to be passed in the Senate.)
In 2015 there was a class-action lawsuit filed challenging detention conditions in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention facilities by the American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU of Arizona, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Morrison & Foerster LLP. The complaint alleges the Tucson Sector Border Patrol, specifically, holds men, women and children in freezing, overcrowded, and filthy cells for days at a time in violation of the U.S. Constitution and CBP’s own policies.
This is where many of the photos that are being pushed daily in the mainstream media outlets actually originated. In November of 2016, the Court ordered that photographs and other evidence of the conditions, which Plaintiffs had submitted to the Court under seal, could be released into the public. The evidence includes photos that depict individuals crowded into cells, huddled together to try and stay warm, lying on concrete benches and the concrete floor without any mats.
It is important to note, this was before President Donald J. Trump was even elected. The photos have made their rounds all over mainstream media with "Children in Cages" as one of their main fraudulent headlines. President Trump reacted swiftly with a tweet in May in response to the claim that these were recent photos:
When Trump took office, groups of immigrants all but ceased coming into the United States. Border apprehensions in the first few months of 2017 were at almost unheard of low levels.
Sessions told US attorneys last week that they must now prosecute every single illegal entry case referred to them by DHS, regardless of whether an immigrant came seeking asylum, or with children or no children.
Officials from the White House say Congress needs to ultimately close all "loopholes" that currently are preventing across-the-board mass detention:
- Amend the anti-trafficking TVPRA bill so that the expedited process for screening Mexican children would also apply to children from other countries
- Override the Flores settlement so that families would be kept in traditional immigration detention facilities
- Change the standard for a "credible fear" screening so that the "credibility" assessment is different from the "fear" assessment--to put it another way, if the asylum officer thinks there is something wrong with the immigrant’s story, they would be allowed to flunk the immigrant and put them back on the deportation track
These propositions to close "loopholes" wouldn’t completely end "catch and release" but would certainly severely restrict it.
Yesterday the Associated Press ran an appalling story on how immigrant children were allegedly handcuffed, stripped naked and strapped down with bags thrown over their heads while being beaten at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Virginia. The plaintiff suing the center is a teenager that came here from Mexico who is now suing the government for the abuse he received. What the Associated Press failed to mention is the plaintiff was moved there when Obama was president, way back in April of 2016. More FAKE NEWS.
At a White House briefing on Monday, Kristjen Neilsen said that 10,000 of the 12,000 children held in custody were sent to the border WITHOUT their parents, killing the narrative that Trump’s policy is separating families.
Responding to reporters questions during the briefing Neilsen stated, "So I want to be clear on a couple of other things. The vast majority, vast, vast majority of children who are in the care of H.H.S. right now--10,000 of the 12,000--were sent here alone by their parents. That is when they were separated. So somehow we’ve conflated everything. But there is two separate issues. 10,000of those currently in custody were sent by their parents with strangers to undertake a completely dangerous and deadly travel alone. We now care for them. We have high standards. We give them meals, we give them education, we give them medical care. There is videos, there is TVs, I visited the detention centers myself--that would be my answer to that question."
You can review U.S. laws on human trafficking starting with The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 HERE.
Written By FULCRUM Contributor Haley Kennington