Leaders from some of the nation’s largest domestic human service providers strongly condemned the Trump administration’s policy of removing children from asylum-seeking parents arriving at the border.
“On behalf of the human services sector, representing more than 5 million staff and volunteers, we call on the Trump administration to immediately stop this wrong and immoral policy, that has resulted in more than 2,000 children being needlessly separated from their parents while their parents are being processed at our borders,” said a statement issued today by 14 CEOs.
As part of the decision to swiftly prosecute parents arriving at the border from Central American countries, children have been shuttled by the Department of Homeland Security from their parents’ custody to the Unaccompanied Alien Children program, which is operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The ORR program houses unaccompanied minors from Central American (mostly Guatemala at the moment) in shelter facilities operated by private contractors. While most of those shelters are of moderate capacity, a recently opened border facility managed by Southwest Key holds more than 1,500 children, including many of the children removed from their parents.
Shelters are responsible for sheltering, feeding and educating minors until a family member in the United States is found who can sponsor them. The entire point of the UAC program is to grant those children a day in court to argue for asylum, but that process is plagued by lack of attendance by the minors and lack of legal counsel for those who do present in court.
While most of the unaccompanied minors who make the dangerous trip to the border are teens, many of the children who have been removed from parents are babies or small children. UAC was already experiencing a dramatic uptick in youth to place, and the addition of the removed children has put the program even further over capacity.
The CEOs called on ORR to “take immediate steps to restore connections between the infants, toddlers and teens who are currently in custody and their family members who are awaiting processing, including regular visitation and communication.”
The CEOs who signed the statement are:
- Susan Dreyfus, CEO, Alliance for Strong Families and Communities
- Nancy Brown, CEO, American Heart Association
- Sister Donna Markham, CEO, Catholic Charities USA
- Michael Brown, CEO, City Year
- Matthew M. Knott, President, Feeding America
- Sylvia Acevedo, CEO, Girl Scouts of the USA
- Judy Vredenburgh, CEO, Girls Incorporated
- Jonathan Reckford, CEO, Habitat for Humanity International
- Charlotte Haberaecker, CEO, Lutheran Services in America
- Paul Gionfriddo, CEO, Mental Health America
- James Firman, CEO, National Council on Aging
- Brian Gallagher, CEO, United Way Worldwide
- Mike King, President, Volunteers of America
- Alejandra Castillo, CEO, YWCA USA
The standard of care for all of these children, the statement said, “must be equal to that expected in our current child welfare system.”