In the face of protests across the country and broad bipartisan condemnation, the president signed an executive order that families will be detained “together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.” Based on the wording of the order and subsequent statements from the Justice Department, it appears likely that this is only a temporary reprieve. Let’s be clear: The Administration’s policy to separate children from their parents at the border is unconscionable and does not comport with basic standards of human decency.
We are also outraged that innocent children are being used as political pawns. Over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents. Many of them have already experienced violence and horrific circumstances in their home country. This policy exposed them to further trauma which is akin state-sanctioned child abuse as noted by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
These vulnerable children are still in custody and the Health and Human Services Department has announced that they will not be immediately reunited. This is not acceptable, and we urge the administration to ensure their reunification with their parents without any delay.
Earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a decision removing sexual assault and violence as grounds for asylum despite longstanding precedent to the contrary. Through this decision, the administration again targets the most vulnerable. Thousands of survivors, mostly women and children, who have experienced the trauma of sexual and domestic violence, will be blocked from applying for refuge in our country thus denying them access to safety and condemning them to return to the life-threatening and brutal situation they fled. Our government should uphold the fundamental tenet that everyone is worthy of safety and justice and should not target sexual and domestic violence survivors as undeserving.
This administration’s approach to immigration and constant vilification of immigrants are inconsistent with the values of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee and the values upon which our country was founded. This is not and should not be a partisan issue.
We call on Congress to work across the aisle to enact comprehensive, fair, and humane immigration legislation, including allowing survivors of sexual and domestic violence to seek asylum and legal status for DACA recipients. We call on you to contact our representatives, Congressmember Salud Carbajal (202-225-3601), Senator Dianne Feinstein (202-224-3841), and Senate Kamala Harris (202-224-3553) to advocate for such legislation and reach out to their colleagues.
Catherine Swysen is president of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee.