October 25, 2019

Assessing the Legal Landscape of Family Separation in the Immigration Context

By Carrie Cordero, Heidi Li Feldman and Chimène Keitner

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen was interviewed this week as part of FORTUNE’s “Most Powerful Women Summit” in Washington. Nielsen, who seemed nonplussed that her interviewer, PBS NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz, intended to conduct a serious interview and not simply sit back and let the former Trump administration official recite her cybersecurity talking points, doubled down on her role in family separation, stating that she did not regret “enforcing the law.”

While prior presidential administrations have certainly struggled with periodic migration and border security challenges, officials in the Trump administration revived a controversial proposal that had been considered briefly during the Obama administration, but quickly shelved as “too opprobrious and unpalatable.” Once implemented last year, the early effects of the family separation policy and practice were swift, and devastating: Children were separated from their parents or family members at the border as a consequence of a new prosecutive guideline from the Justice Department. Parents were given little or no information about where the children were re-located to, or when, if ever, the families would be reunited. While statistics available as of early fall 2019 indicate that over 4,000 children were separated from their parents at the southern border, the numbers continue to go up, including new information from the ACLU that more “tender age” children were separated than previously disclosed. It took advocacy litigation and a court order to begin the process of reunification, a process that continues even today.

Read the full article in Just Security.

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