Anyone watching the news over the past few weeks will no doubt be horrified to hear about the numerous instances of immigrant children being separated from their mothers and fathers by the United States government. If you are a U.S. immigrant and a parent, this news must be particularly frightening and you probably want to know how the government can legally do this.
What’s important to understand from a legal perspective is that the Trump administration did not specifically create a policy to separate children and families. What the administration did do, however, was institute a policy to criminally prosecute every adult accused of illegally crossing into the United States. Tragically and sadly, in the case of an arrest and federal criminal prosecution, the parents will inevitably face separation from their children.
More commonly in the past, those captured illegally crossing the border were sent to immigration detention, given an immigration hearing and deported — and they were not separated from their kids. However, when unlawful immigrants are criminally prosecuted, they go to federal jail while awaiting trial. Children can’t be sent to an adult federal jail — because an adult jail is no place for children and, more importantly, the children have not done anything wrong — so they get separated and sent to another federal facility that cares for children while the parents await trial.
The issue surrounding these horrible child-parent separations relates to the strictness with which the presidential administration chooses to enforce existing laws. In order to limit or prevent parent-child separations, it’s necessary for the U.S. Congress to act swiftly to change existing immigration laws. Until that happens, these tragic separations of children from their families could continue as long as the White House chooses to enforce the law in this fashion.
If you’ve been separated from your child — or if your family member has — it’s vital to act quickly to assert and defend your legal rights in court. Family immigration law strategies may be available to help improve your situation.