But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long. President Trump several times sought to blame the situation on Democrats, falsely insisting that he was enforcing a law that the minority party enacted.
Zero Tolerance Meets the Alien Death Ray and Other (Mostly) Inappropriate Stories
By mid-June, as outrage mounted, messaging fell apart. While family separations occurred on a sporadic basis during the Obama and previous administrations, in the new Trump administration made clear that it was considering the practice as part of its planned crackdown on immigration, both legal and undocumented.
Between and 1, families were separated in the pre-zero tolerance period. During those 50 days, U. However, this figure is only a portion of the border-wide number of children separated because it does not account for children who were separated before zero tolerance went into effect. Indeed, court documents would later find 2, separated children in ORR custody, in addition to who were still in CBP custody on June 20, not yet turned over to ORR as unaccompanied children, meaning that over 3, children had been separated in total.
Most of the who were in CBP custody at the time the Trump Administration called a halt to separations were quickly reunited with their parents. Some had been without their parents for weeks or months. As discussed below, reuniting them with their parents proved to be a process fraught with obstacles, ranging from bureaucracy to incompetence to lack of human empathy, and carried forward only under heavy pressure from the judicial branch of government.
This accounting from DHS is only a portion of the children border-wide who could have been separated from their parents during this period. This was almost certainly happening in less than half of cases, though. Alternatives to detention, like release with a GPS-enabled ankle bracelet, appeared to be more common. Zero tolerance in the Yuma and Tucson sectors meant that some separated parents were suddenly among those being prosecuted, but families were still being released every day.
Authorities like Sessions have voiced a belief that many families are fraudulent, claiming that adults cross with unaccompanied kids in order to evade detention or ORR custody while making an asylum claim. The figure rose to during the first five months of the current fiscal year.
Those who have interviewed separated parents say that in some instances U. Some were not even given a moment to say goodbye. Her account is lengthy but worth reproducing:. In other cases, we see no communication that the parent knows that their child is to be taken away. Can I hold him for a few minutes? Officials deny this. Separation usually happened within a day or two of apprehension, while families were still in Border Patrol custody, or that of its parent agency, CBP.
Children were then moved on to ORR shelters, where they awaited placement with relatives or in foster homes. That period is spent under harsh conditions.
Photo: Google Street View. Reporters and members of Congress have been allowed to visit that facility, and photos reveal an unpleasant place. Chain-link fencing separates the warehouse-like space into pens resembling cages, in which children are separated by age and gender, and parents are kept separately unless the child is very young. Inside the pens, children lie on mats, covered in shiny mylar disposable blankets, on concrete floors.
The overhead lighting, resembling that of a big-box discount store, is always on. Photos of this facility shocked the world and played a big role in stirring outrage about the family-separation policy. The CPC opened in , after the first wave of unaccompanied Central American children caught ORR badly off-guard, making hour transfers impossible and forcing Border Patrol to keep kids in the hallways and out on the loading dock behind its sector headquarters in McAllen.
WOLA accompanies Rep. Under the Trump administration, the CPC became a site of separation, not imminent reunification. Beyond the austere conditions, the most objectionable thing happening there was the separation of at least 1, families within its walls during the 50 days when zero tolerance was in full force. After being separated, children were then placed in one of over ORR-funded shelters in 17 different states, mostly run by non-profit corporations.
Here, as noted, they spend an average of 57 days before placement in a foster home or with a relative. Older children have been kept in larger facilities that hold hundreds at a time. Here, they usually sleep four or five to a room, eat in a cafeteria, and receive some classroom instruction and recreation time. Jeff Merkley D-Oregon made headlines after being denied entry, on video, in early June, and which later hosted a visit of U.
Defense and security contractors, some of them with ties to Trump administration officials, are also obtaining HHS contracts to shelter the expanding population of separated and unaccompanied children. Throughout the shelter network, public records show citations for mistreatment of children and failing to administer medication.
It found that the company has been storing families on a short-term basis in empty Phoenix, Arizona office buildings that are not licensed as child care facilities. There, neighbors have observed children having to bathe in bathroom sinks.
Among those most articulately voicing horror at the child separations were pediatricians, child psychologists, and child welfare advocates in the United States. This type of prolonged exposure to serious stress—known as toxic stress—can carry lifelong consequences for children. His injunction, the result of a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union ACLU , gave the Trump administration 30 days to reunite all 2, children with their parents; 14 days if the child was less than five years old.
No process to help parents locate separated children was in place when zero tolerance began. The judicial order forced authorities to throw one together hastily. As of early July, the family reunification process was barely underway. The Secretary of Health and Human Services told a Senate panel on July 5 that along with 2, children that had been separated from their parents as part of the zero tolerance policy, the agency had almost 3, children total that needed to be reunited with their parents, including many separated prior to the new policy and some children that were separated from the parents during their journey.
Unless the parent has already been deported back to his or her home country, when children are reunited with their parents, the family units are usually released pending an asylum hearing. The Trump administration would prefer to hold families together in ICE detention facilities while their asylum claims are processed, which takes months and raises strong concerns, discussed below, about prolonged family detention.
Prior to the June court ruling, parents and other individuals who were being criminally prosecuted saw their chances of requesting asylum curtailed. No database maintained a record of the parent-child relationship. Minors come into HHS custody with information provided by DHS regarding how they illegally entered the country and whether or not they were with a parent or adult and, to the extent possible, the parent s or guardian s information and location. There is a central database which HHS and DHS can access and update when a parent s or minor s location information changes.
At the moment of separation, parents were handed a flyer with numbers to call. Before the court-ordered reunification process got underway, attorneys and advocates said that ICE was using the prospect of reunification to pressure parents to drop their asylum cases. The form lets them choose only whether they wish to be deported with or without their children.
The family separations inspired a wave of outrage throughout the country, dominating U. Rejection of the practice came from quarters normally supportive of President Trump, or normally reluctant to express views about current events. On June 20, six days before the federal injunction put a hold on family separations, the national outcry forced President Trump to take the rare step of backing down, at least partially.
It is far from clear how the administration would do this. ICE maintains three family detention centers, with a total capacity of just over 3, families.
Two, in Dilley and Karnes City, Texas, are privately run and not certified childcare facilities. A third, in Leesport, Pennsylvania, is a certified facility though that certification is under appeal run by the government of Berks County, Pennsylvania. Since June 20, the vast majority of asylum-seeking families have again been released, usually with tracking devices. The executive order calls on the Defense Department to provide existing facilities, or build new ones, to house families, presumably on military bases.
This facility could include up to 12, beds for families, including 2, beds that could be available within 45 days of ORR sending a request letter to the Defense Department. This is not wholly unprecedented: the Obama administration used bases for four months in to house 7, unaccompanied children. The first is the cost. Current jurisprudence exists as a safeguard against widespread family detention. A judicial consent decree known as the Flores settlement, which was bolstered by a ruling in and upheld in the Ninth Circuit of Appeals in after the Obama administration opened Karnes and Dilley, sets standards for holding children and families in immigration detention.
Only the Pennsylvania family detention center, which holds 96 families, meets that standard. The June 20 executive order, then, will violate Flores if it results in long-term family detention at Karnes, Dilley, or military bases. As the Department of Justice filing makes clear, although most families are once again being released from detention, the administration and Congress are considering measures that would enable families to be held in detention indefinitely, pending their asylum decisions.
The story of zero tolerance, family separation, and family detention is a grim account of suffering caused by Trump administration policymakers who were either being deliberately inhumane in order to attempt to force changes in laws and in migration patterns, or who in the best of cases were blind to the human consequences of their choices.
At lower levels of government, this story also lacks heroes. Bureaucrats followed procedure, routinely dehumanizing parents and children while lacking the creativity even to come up with a way to keep records of links between them. Elsewhere, though, the story is brighter. Border towns have strong communities of lawyers providing pro-bono legal aid to asylum seekers. Advocates, some of them volunteers, are accompanying parents and children through the bureaucratic labyrinth that stands in the way of their reunification.
Some are out at the borderline, accompanying asylum-seekers who face obstacles at the official border crossings discussed in a previous report. Volunteers are putting out water and first aid equipment in the desert to prevent unnecessary deaths. Others, along with lawyers, are documenting and denouncing allegations of abuse at the hands of U.
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Still others are working at the local level to educate their communities and seek changes to a dysfunctional policy. Journalists are continuing to document the impact of zero tolerance policy, gathering testimonies and revealing information withheld by opaque government agencies. These private citizens are the heroes of this story, and a reason to maintain hope. WOLA staff were honored to meet with many of them during our visit to Arizona. We are thankful for their work, and encourage the public to support them:.
Ginger Thompson. June 18, Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration. Once in a while, I'll write a story that contains an item, a scene, or an action that might be inappropriate for a classroom. So if a story involves bringing a weapon to school even if it is a seemingly useless alien death ray , gambling in a casino even if it is in a video game , or stealing steroids okay — that one is just plain bad , that story wouldn't, and shouldn't, go into the Weenies books.
I don't want my books to get banned from any school, and I don't want to cause problems for teachers or librarians. But, thanks to how amazingly easy and inexpensive it is to produce an ebook, I can now share these stories with my fans. By the way, if your parents have a problem with a book of inappropriate stories, tell them, I'm pretty sure the author is using the word ironically.
That will both satisfy and impress them. As for the rest of the title, I say mostly because not all of the stories have inappropriate elements. But all of them are good. Thanks, Mrs. Zambini, I said as my last customer of the day paid me.
I'd been mowing lawns all week and I was beat. But now for the good part — spending the money. I stopped at my friend Mike's house on the way into town. It's even more fun spending money when you bring someone along.
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We headed for Video Kingdom. They had a great selection of games, and the prices were pretty good. I heard it has twice as much blood splatter as Destructo II. Check this out, Mike said, grabbing a box from the bottom shelf. Big Otto's Casino. And it's only five bucks. Mike passed the box to me. I checked the screen shots on the back. The graphics actually looked pretty good. And I had enough money for both games. Sure, I said. Why not. So I bought both games and took them home.
Zero Tolerance Meets the Alien Death Ray and Other (Mostly) Inappropriate Stories
Then I put in Big Otto's Casino. The title screen came up with a picture of Otto. He was a fat, ugly guy with a cigar clamped in his mouth. Welcome, he said in a raspy voice. Nice ta meetcha. C'mon in. The game started. I led my guy into the casino and played a slot machine.