Migrant Families Are Still Being Separated At The Border, A Civil Rights Group Says

by Monica Hunter-Hart
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Family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border have not yet ended, a new report from a Texas-based social justice organization claims. The Trump administration received widespread pushback last spring when it implemented a policy that took migrant children away from their parents. President Donald Trump officially ended the policy in June, but the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) published a report on Thursday indicating that some migrant families are still being separated at the border.

The report "forces all of us who were recoiled in disgust a year ago to become uncomfortable again," a forward to the report from law professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández reads. "Family separation is not yet the past; it remains the present."

TCRP interviewed almost 10,000 migrants between June 22 and Dec. 17 in McAllen, Texas, where a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) station is located. Everyone interviewed was facing criminal charges of entering the country illegally. TCRP spoke to 272 adults who had been separated from a family member who was a minor, and 38 of those adults were the children's legal guardians, according to the report. The report says 46 kids were taken away from those 38 legal guardians during that period, 25 of whom were younger than 10 and one of whom was less than 9 months old.

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CBP called TCRP's report "flawed" and "misleading" in a statement obtained by Bustle. The agency specifically took issue with TCRP including relationships that are "non-familial (care-taker, distant relative or unknown)," because "the Homeland Security Act does not make concessions for anyone other than a parent or legal guardian."

"When encountering minors, there are legal requirements that CBP must follow that are in place to ensure the safety of the child," the agency stated. "When a minor child without lawful status arrives ... alone or with someone other than a parent or legal guardian, the child will be processed as an unaccompanied child and will be referred to HHS for further disposition and placement which is often with a family member or family friend already in the United States. This includes instances when a child may be traveling with a non-parent family member."

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Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, CBP may separate adults from children when the adult has a criminal history in order to protect the child's well-being. Some of the instances of separation documented by TCRP fall under this category: A mother identified as Ms. Y, for instance, had non-fatally shot a captor who had kept her in sexual slavery.

Another example TCRP highlighted was that of a Guatemalan man named Mr. Perez-Domingo, who was interrogated by a border agent in Spanish even though his primary language is Mam. The agent reportedly asked him leading questions that confused him, like "You're not the father, right?" Perez-Domingo reportedly agreed without understanding what the agent meant. Accusing him of faking his 2-year-old daughter's birth certificate, the agent then separated Perez-Domingo from his child, according to TCRP's report.

In a series of recommendations at the end of the report, TCRP called on the federal government to end the Department of Homeland Security's "zero tolerance" policy (which is still in place, even though Trump ordered CBP to stop separating children from their parents) and to immediately reunite all separated families.