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Tell Congress and the Administration: End Zero-Tolerance Policy and Reunite Immigrant Families Immediately

In April 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal government would adopt a zero-tolerance policy of criminally prosecuting all migrants for unauthorized border crossings, including those legally seeking asylum. This policy officially instituted practices that separated children from their families. Within the first six weeks of this zero-tolerance policy in place, the number of children separated from their families reached 2,300.

On Wednesday, June 20, President Trump signed an executive order that will allow families to stay together, but for an “indefinite” period of time in detention while the parents are criminally prosecuted. The executive order did not end the zero-tolerance policy put in place by Attorney General Sessions. Under the executive order, these prosecutions will continue to occur, and now families will be detained together – meaning that asylum seekers, including children, will still be treated as criminals and detained indefinitely. There is still no plan for reuniting children already separated with their families.

On June 26, 2018, a San Diego-based U.S. District Court Judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering the federal government to reunite migrant parents with children separated as a result of the Trump Administration's zero-tolerance policy. The injunction requires that nearly all children younger than five years old be reunited with their parents within 14 days and that older children be reunited within 30 days. While we applaud this court order, this crisis will not be resolved until the Administration rescinds the zero-tolerance policy and reunites all of the more than 2,000 children who've already been separated from their families.

Congress and the Administration must act immediately to terminate the zero-tolerance policy and take swift action to reunite the 2,300 children who have already been separated from their families.



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  • Background:

    In April 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal government would adopt a zero-tolerance policy for unauthorized border crossings, pledging to refer anyone who crosses into the United States for criminal prosecution, regardless of the reason. Under this policy, families seeking asylum who illegally cross the border will be treated as criminals, rather than asylum seekers. The adults will be charged with a federal misdemeanor and, before June 20, the children were treated as if they were unaccompanied minors. Within the first six weeks of this zero-tolerance policy in place, the number of children separated from their families reached 2,300.

    On Wednesday, June 20, President Trump signed an executive order (EO) that will allow families to stay together, but for an “indefinite” period of time in detention while the parents are criminally prosecuted. The executive order did not end the zero-tolerance policy put in place by Attorney General Sessions and will continue to treat asylum seekers as criminals. The EO states that moving forward, families will be detained together throughout the full extent of the parent's criminal proceeding, a proceeding that could take an indefinite amount of time.

    The administration has not provided a plan to reunite the 2,300 children who have already been separated from their families. Each of these children are enduring the trauma of being separated from their parents and being exposed to a system that is at best under-resourced and at worst abusive. Documents obtained by the ACLU allege that children detained by Customs and Border Protection, which holds the children when they are first separated from their families, have sustained insults, threats and physical abuse. These stories raise serious doubts about our government’s ability to safeguard children and about the future of the 2,300 children already separated from their parents.

    On June 26, 2018, a San Diego-based U.S. District Court Judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering the federal government to reunite migrant parents with children separated as a result of the Trump Administration's zero-tolerance policy. The injunction requires that nearly all children younger than five years old be reunited with their parents within 14 days and that older children be reunited within 30 days. While we applaud this court order, this crisis will not be resolved until the Administration rescinds the zero-tolerance policy and reunites all of the more than 2,000 children who've already been separated from their families.

    We join our partners in the immigrant community and people of faith and conscience to express our outrage at the Administration’s immoral decision to use the threat of family separation and indefinite family incarceration to deter immigration. The President, the Attorney General and officials at the Department of Homeland Security must adopt enforcement mechanisms that keep families together and protect the rights of those people seeking asylum in this country, and members of Congress should urge them to do the same.

    Jewish Values:

    Our tradition calls on us to welcome the stranger, having ourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt. We are commanded to turn our attention towards the widow, the orphan and the stranger and to show love and care for them. Policies that separate immigrant families and indefinitely detain asylum seekers dehumanize those coming to seek a better life here in the United States and fall short of our mandate to be a welcoming society.

    We are taught, “A society and a family are like a pile of stones. If you remove one stone, the pile will collapse. If you add a stone to it, it will stand” (Genesis Rabbah 100:7). Our Jewish values compel us to demand that children be reunited with their families.

    In Jeremiah 31:15 we read, "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are gone." Rachel's great sadness is being perpetrated by our own government on our own soil. We join Rachel’s cry – because children have been separated and locked away from their parents.