Parents at border still to be faced with heartless choice

June 26, 2018

The Trump administration is developing a plan that would confront parents who cross the border illegally with a sort of “Sophie’s Choice,” according to a June 25 report by the Miami Herald: Either allow themselves to be detained with their child in a large tent city—or give up custody of their child, at least temporarily—according to two sources who have discussed the plans with White House officials.

The choice is being considered as part of a hastily crafted solution to the problem of complying with President Donald Trump’s executive order last week, which terminated the widely condemned policy of separating parents and children arrested at the border. However, it still uses children as pawns in the zero-tolerance immigration push.

Current law, the news outlet points out, prohibits the federal government from keeping children detained, even with their parents, in immigration detention for more than 20 days.

But, if a parent does not wish the child to be released from custody and taken away from him or her, the so-called Flores court settlement notes the parent can keep the child with them in custody.

More than 2,000 Latin American children have been placed in shelters or foster homes since the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” plan went into effect. Since the executive order was signed last week, about 500 children have been returned to their parents.Top of Form

“They want to take the power of the mother away to be able to say, ‘I want my kid released’,” Peter Schey, the lawyer who represented the mothers in the Flores case, told the Herald. “They want to take that away. Say ‘no, forget that, the kid has to be detained with you until the very end.’ ”

Schey described Trump’s proposal as “Hobson’s choice“—which means no choice at all—but said the Department of Homeland Security can already detain parents and children together if the parent does not want their child to be released. He said parents need to understand and be informed that they do have choices.

“Neither the language nor the intention of anything in the Flores agreement precludes a parent from retaining decision-making power over their children,” Schey said. “We never thought to usurp that decision-making authority which we highly respect.”

According to the findings of a Quinnipiac University poll released on June 18, American voters oppose 66% vs. 27% percent the policy of separating children and parents when families illegally cross the border.

Research contact: @francoordonez

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