Statement on Family Separation and Zero Tolerance Immigration Policy

I am horrified and outraged by the actions that the Trump administration has taken to separate immigrant children from their families and then jail them, and by the executive order signed today that would legalize the indefinite detention of families.

Since his election in 2016, and even before, President Trump and his appointees have worked to deliberately wreak havoc at our southern border in order to manufacture a crisis that would allow them to pass legislation that would further criminalize and restrict immigration. These efforts have come to a head in the last month with the institution of the administration's "zero tolerance" policy, under which the Department of Justice has begun detaining anyone who crosses the border illegally, even if that crossing is for the purposes of claiming asylum. They have used the fact that they are incarcerating parents for the misdemeanor offense of a border crossing to justify separating them from their children.

Now, President Trump has signed an executive order that would "end family separation" by allowing for children to be detained indefinitely with their parents. I want to make clear that the President has had the ability to end the practice of family separation at any time by rescinding his own zero tolerance policy. Instead, the purposes of this executive order are to circumvent our judicial system in order to violate a court ruling ensuring that immigrant children are treated humanely. Make no mistake, while the President might be attempting to change the optics, the policy is pernicious and continues to be so.

The problems that plague our immigration system are not new, nor are they specific to the current administration. However, the child separation policy, and the inclination to traumatize children and families and ignore our obligations to asylum seekers by seeking to deter those who would hope to find refuge reflects a new low in our willingness to dehumanize a group of people based on their immigration status. Our answer to illegal border crossings and the human rights crises facing many Latin American countries can simply not be that we take families and warehouse them in detention. It is disgraceful, and a betrayal of our national ideals.

As the zero tolerance policy is the root cause of the current immigration crisis, I urge you to contact President Trump and Attorney General Sessions and demand that it be rescinded, and to contact your congressional representatives and encourage them to do the same.

I also want to let you know you can donate to any of the many good organizations who are working to support immigrants in detention and fight the administration. Slate has put together a helpful list of the organizations doing this essential work.