This square was inspired by a simple principle, families belong together
We have a flawed and extremely complicated immigration system. Regardless of citizenship, a person must enter the United States via a port of entry or a border inspection point. Crossing into the US at any other point that has not been designated by US immigration officials is illegal. First time offenders who improperly enter the US can be charged with a misdemeanor which may result in a fine, 6 months in prison or both¹.
Seems simple. If a person is caught crossing into the US illegally they will be charged, prosecuted and deported back to their country of origin. However, as a signatory to the 1967 Protocol, and through U.S. immigration law, the United States has legal obligations to provide protection to those who qualify as refugees, regardless of how they enter the country. A refugee is defined as a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
On average, asylum seekers are detained for 102 days². During past administrations, vulnerable groups of immigrants, like asylum seekers, families with children and unaccompanied minors, were granted special protections and were released from detention while awaiting their case to be heard in immigration court. This practice is often referred to as ‘catch and release’.
In April, the Trump administration instituted a zero tolerance policy requiring all adults who enter the US illegally to be criminally prosecuted. As a result, families who were seeking asylum and improperly crossed into the US were being separated by the US government. Between October 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018, at least 2,700 children were seperated from their parents³.
These children have been scattered across the country with little regard to how these families would be reunited in the future. Per a federal judge, “The practice of separating these families was implemented without any effective system or procedure for (1) tracking the children after they were separated from their parents, (2) enabling communication between the parents and their children after separation, and (3) reuniting the parents and children after the parents are returned to immigration custody following completion of their criminal sentence. This is a startling reality,”
After national outrage, the President signed an executive order ending the separation of immigrant families that was caused by his administration’s zero tolerance policy, but it made no mention of reuniting the parents that had previously been separated from their children. On June 26th a federal judge ordered government officials to reunify all parents with their minor children who are under the age of 5 within 14 days and reunify all parents with their minor children age 5 and older within 30 days. In addition the order also mandates that officials provide parents contact with their children by phone within 10 days, if the parent is not already in contact with his or her child.
According to the latest available statistics only 522 children have been reunited with their parents. There are sill thousands of parents that have not seen or spoken to their children in weeks and in some cases months. Today, protesters are taking to the streets to take a stand against the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy and demand that all families be reunited. Visit familiesbelongtogether.org to learn more about the more than 600 Families Belong Together marches taking place across the country.