House Oversight Committee calls for information regarding ongoing family separation at border

Two leading House Democrats are calling on the Trump administration to hand over information regarding the separation of nearly 1,000 migrant children from their families at the southern border in the year since a federal judge’s ruling ordered a halt to this state-sanctioned kidnapping. Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney and Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Chair Jamie Raskin tell acting Homeland Security Sec. Chad Wolf, “The new separations appear to follow an opaque process and vague standards that may be causing many children to be separated unnecessarily.”

Nearly 3,000 children were taken from their families under the barbaric “zero tolerance” policy before federal Judge Dana Sabraw issued his June 2018 injunction. However, court documents filed by the American Civil Liberties Union said that officials took over 900 kids since that ruling, which made an exception if the child was in danger—an exception that officials have abused by taking kids from families for minor and petty reasons. When advocates returned to court to ask Sabraw to block these new separations and institute strict guidelines regarding when a child should be removed from a family, he stunningly sided with the Trump administration.

Legislators are now demanding answers regarding these separations. “On July 18, 2019, acting Secretary McAleenan testified before our committee that ongoing separations ‘are carefully governed by policy and court order’ to ensure the separation is ‘in the interest of the child,’” they said in their letter. “However, sworn declarations filed by independent experts—including child advocates, religious organizations, and medical professionals who have worked with these separated children—directly contradict his testimony.”

“According to these declarations, the administration has separated children based on mere allegations rather than convictions, minor or nonviolent convictions, extremely old convictions, non-serious medical issues, unsubstantiated doubts about parentage, and subjective judgments about parental fitness,” they continued. That’s included falsely accusing parents of gang ties. In one instance, a father was separated from his kids for 184 days after U.S. border officials reportedly told him, “You don’t have any rights here.”

Among the requests from legislators is documentation listing “detailed justification” for every separation since Sabraw’s 2018 court order, as well as information on whether the child in each case was subsequently reunited with their family, sent to a sponsor, or remains in U.S. custody. ”The committee is deeply concerned by the number of separations the Trump administration is causing, the lack of clear and transparent processes, the inadequate justification for taking children away from their families, and the ongoing inability to track and reunify families,” the legislators note.

Nearly two years after the official implementation of the zero tolerance policy, families remain separated. Just this week, nine asylum-seekers who were wrongfully deported without their children returned to the U.S. under an unprecedented court order, also issued by Sabraw. One of those parents, David Xol, wept as he hugged his son, Byron. He hadn’t seen him in person since they were separated in May 2018.  “He was small,” he said, according to the AP. “He grew a lot.”

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