Families still being separated at border — months after Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy reversed
The Trump administration has quietly resumed separating immigrant families at the border, in some cases using vague or unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing or minor violations against the parents, including charges of illegally re-entering the country, as justification.
Over the last three months, lawyers at Catholic Charities, which provides legal services to immigrant children in government custody in New York, have discovered at least 16 new separation cases. They say they have come across such instances by chance and via their own sleuthing after children were put into temporary foster care and shelters with little or no indication that they arrived at the border with their parents.
ProPublica stumbled upon one more case late last month after receiving a call from a distraught Salvadoran father who had been detained in South Texas, and whose 4-year-old son, Brayan, had literally been yanked from his grasp by a Customs and Border Protection agent after they crossed the border and asked for asylum. Julio, the father, asked to be identified only by his first name because he was fleeing gang violence and worried about the safety of relatives back home.
“I failed him,” said Julio, 27, sobbing uncontrollably. “Everything I had done to be a good father was destroyed in an instant.”
ProPublica tracked down Brayan, who has reddish-blond hair and an endearing lisp, at a temporary foster care agency in New York City, and reached out to the lawyer who represents him. Until that phone call, the lawyer, Jodi Ziesemer, a supervising attorney at Catholic Charities, had no idea that Brayan had been separated from his father. The chaos, she said, felt disturbingly like zero tolerance all over again.
“It’s so disheartening,” Ziesemer said “This was supposed to be a policy that ended.”
Officially it has. On June 20, President Donald Trump signed an executive order retreating from his so-called zero-tolerance immigration enforcement policy, which called on authorities to criminally prosecute adults caught illegally crossing the border and separate them from any children they brought with them. A week later, a federal judge, Dana M. Sabraw, issued an injunction against the separations and ordered the government to put the thousands of affected families back together.
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