faith in action

Immigrant family separation

Why it is happening and what you can do.

While the issue of family separation in migration justice is not new, the systematic separation of children from their parents is part of a new “zero tolerance” policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in early May.

As reported by our partners at the Coalition on Human Needs in an email,

From May 6 to May 19, 638 parents traveling with 658 children were separated, because of the Trump Administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy — arresting every parent crossing the border, without regard to national and international standards for the treatment of asylum-seekers.  Parents are taken into custody, and children, some very young, are placed in the custody of HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement - they often do not know how to contact each other.  This is an abrupt expansion of Trump’s family separation policy.

As reported by Business Insider, the number of migrant children in custody of the US government jumped by over 20 percent following this new policy. Over 10,000 children are being held by the US government without their parents, while their parents await criminal prosecution.

In our Social Principles, The United Methodist Church states,

“We oppose immigration policies that separate family members from each other or that include detention of families with children, and we call on local churches to be in ministry with immigrant families.” (Social Principles ¶162.H)

What you can do

There are many calls to action and many ways to engage. Here are just three:

  1. Use social media to raise awareness about this horrific practice. Tweet at @realDonaldTrump and @SecNielsen. See resources at

  2. Issue a press statement and speak out publicly about the need to keep families together. Local op-eds and letters to the editor are particularly helpful.

  3. Call your members of Congress. Have your friends call their members of Congress. Call 202.224.3121. Urge your members of Congress to use Congress’ oversight authority to stop separating families. We must ensure the rights of children and parents are respected, and our legal system is allowed to work in the way Congress intended — to provide those needing protection permanent safety, and that our families and communities are strong and successful.

Four requests for members of Congress:

  • Push for an end to the practice of separating and jailing families. Call on President Trump, DHS Secretary Nielsen, and Attorney General Sessions to end family separation and detention through social media, letters, appropriations requirements, and in Congressional hearings.
  • Support an effort to defund family separation in the appropriations context and support decreases in funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices within the Department of Justice.
  • Visit CBP facilities, detention centers, and federal courts at the border – speak firsthand to parents who have been separated from their children and hear their stories.
  • Consider legislation that would: protect family values at the border; help separated children; and give children a fair day in court. Also consider appropriations legislation and report language that would prevent blanket and inhumane family separation practices, and track when, where, and how often family separation occurs.

While this news story rightfully provoked public outrage, it was also — unfortunately — confused with another news story, which reported the “U.S. government lost 1,500 migrant children” of whom it had custody. To understand how these two stories are separate issues — and how 1,500 migrant children might not be “lost,” or at least not in the way we think — check out this Slate article.

What you can do

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