DOJ Spins on Family Separation


By Jenny Samuels

In an interview on Tuesday morning with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Attorney General Jeff Sessions doubled down on his defense of the Trump administration’s practice of tearing apart families seeking refuge in the United States, including those seeking asylum. The interview revealed not only Sessions’ lack of basic empathy and compassion but also his willingness to deceive the public in defending this cruel policy.

During the conversation, Hewitt pushed Sessions to consider the implications of separating a child from his or her parent, even asking if Sessions could imagine his own grandchildren being taken from their parents. Yet Sessions would not be moved, opting instead to paint these devastated, vulnerable parents as criminals who are “just coming here because they’d like to make more money.”

Further questioned on the morality of detaining people seeking asylum, Sessions resorted to outright lies. The issue, Sessions explained, is that people are not pursuing asylum in the correct way, by arriving through a U.S. port of entry: “If you come to the country, you should come through … the port of entry and make a claim of asylum.”

Here’s what the Attorney General is not saying: Under its family separation policy, asylum seekers who have followed this exact protocol are still having their children ripped away. It happened to both Ms. L and Mirian G, two mothers who are a part of our class-action lawsuit. Fleeing the Congo, Ms. L, arrived at a port of entry near San Diego with her then 6-year-old daughter to seek asylum. Despite having committed no crime and having followed the correct protocol for seeking asylum, Ms. L and her daughter were detained. Four days later, her daughter was taken from her and sent to a government facility in Chicago. Ms. L was sent to an immigration detention center. The mother and daughter were kept apart by 2,000 miles for more than four months until the ACLU intervened on their behalf. Mirian G., an asylum seeker from Honduras, experienced similar cruelty: After presenting herself at port of entry, Border Patrol agents took away her 18-month-old son. She didn’t see him again for more than two months.

Sessions would have us believe that those who follow the rules will not be subjected to this kind of inhumane treatment, but that’s simply untrue. No one seeking asylum, even those not entering through ports of entry, should be treated like a criminal. But for Sessions to claim that the administration is only separating families who cross the border illegally is just wrong. Our clients did everything by the book and still had their children taken from them.

Sessions also spent much of the conversation attempting to portray the administration’s family separation policy as par for the course. “Every time somebody … gets prosecuted in America for a crime, American citizens, and they go to jail, they’re separated from their children,” Sessions argued. Parents seeking refuge in the United States who are prosecuted for crossing the border someplace other than a port of entry, Sessions’ line of reasoning goes, are simply being treated as any American citizen who is incarcerated.

But since when does the government refuse to reunite a parent and child after someone has served her time?

Crossing the border without proper documentation is a misdemeanor that typically carries the penalty of a few days in jail if you’re prosecuted. What the Attorney General failed to mention is that the government is refusing to give kids back to parents once they have served their time. Our client, Ms. C, experienced this firsthand. After Ms. C, an asylum seeker who was prosecuted for entering the country illegally, served her 25-day criminal misdemeanor sentence, she expected to be reunited with her 14-year-old son who had been cruelly taken from her. Instead, Ms. C was forced to wait more than eight months after serving her sentence before the two were reunited.

It is one thing to defend a morally reprehensible policy, but it is another thing entirely to spew lies in making that defense. On Tuesday Sessions crossed that line.

Jenny Samuels is on the Editorial Staff of the ACLU

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10 thoughts on “DOJ Spins on Family Separation”

  1. Tia Will

    “Every time somebody … gets prosecuted in America for a crime, American citizens, and they go to jail, they’re separated from their children,”

    True as stated. But neglects the fact that the children of a criminal American are not also incarcerated. They are allowed to remain in secure environment usually with relatives or known care givers, not in blackened out WalMarts.

  2. Jeff M

    Obama built the detention centers that are currently configured to not easily handle families (i.e., putting adults and children together) and was the President in charge when border enforcement was first ramped up to attempt to meet the needs of the country.

    So we can see the current fake news outrage campaign being waged for what it is… political.

    1. Howard P

      And, the current prez says Obama “didn’t do enough”, and has clearly promoted a ramping up.   That’s not “fake”…

      You are partially correct… you miss the escalation…

      1. Jeff M

        One of the big challenges conveniently left out of the left’s angry screeching about how the Trump admin is dealing with the flood of illegal immigrants coming here is the challenge for keeping the kids brought here safe while they are being processed.  The activists of the left know the challenge but are disingenuously trying to make political hay out of it anyway.  And if you really think about it, this is more dastardly than any behavior they claim of the Trump administration.

        The detention centers are not designed to process families.  They know this… and they know that these facilities were mostly put up under the Obama Administration’s ramp up in border enforcement.

        What they want is for the US government to have to release them into the American Democrat vote-making machine.  They will do this by attempting to exploit the emotions over separated families, or conversely in the case where the families are kept together, the tragedy of adult immigrant harming a child immigrant.  It does not matter to the left… their politics are driving the agenda.

        1. Howard P

          Fact:   Hispanics, particularly Mexicans who attained citizenship, were predominantly Republican up to ~ 5 years ago (particularly in CA)… they have been excoriated and spit out by the GOP more recently.  They tended to be highly motivated by family values (heavily anti-abortion), and economic opportunities…

          Will not comment on the rest of your rant, except to call it out for what it is.


        2. Jeff M

          That change is largely due to a change in the type of people immigrating here compared to the type that immigrated here before, and the explosion in entitlement benefits they can get. I have lived in CA for almost 45 years and have worked on farms and ranches and family had property in Mexico for years and have many friends of Mexican descent.  And those that were Republicans are still Republicans… and like me, lament the changes that have occurred mostly from an explosion in illegal immigration.

          It has little to do with any changes to the GOP.

        3. Howard P

          Please explain “type of people”… I seek clarification… not disputation at this point… the latter may follow.

          What “type” are you and your ancestors… for comparison purposes…

        4. Tia Will

          is the challenge for keeping the kids brought here safe while they are being processed.”

          Children taken away from their parents at critical stages of their development and housed in window blacked out Walmarts can hardly be considered “safe”. If we want to be accurate about the warehousing of people, we need to be accurate. ICE was started by Bush in March of 2003. With unaccompanied children arriving in unprecedented numbers at the border, Obama ramped up the program but left families that arrived together intact. Warehousing was wrong then and it is wrong now. Some may recall with the release of the movie Snowpiercer in 2013, I wrote an article about Snowpiercer at our borders with regard to inhumane treatment of children at the border. I didn’t turn a blind eye to it under Obama and certainly will not turn a blind eye to the expansion under Trump.

           There are three additional steps that have been added under Trump to which I object ( not screech). 1. The practice of separating families as opposed to housing in controlled facilities together for specified purpose not of safety, but for deterrence in their own words.  2. The practice of removing children from even those families seeking asylum legally through legal ports of entry. 3. The practice of narrowing asylum criteria to not allow victims of rape and DV.

          Warehousing is an additional trauma for those fleeing violence, but could be safely accomplished while maintaining the integrity of families. The administration has already said it is not for safety but for deterrence. That is in their own words, not leftist screeching.


  3. Tia Will

    It has little to do with any changes to the GOP.”

    I see this as a questionable assertion. I grew up supported by Social Security after the death of my father, the sole bread winner in our traditional family. Social Security at that time was a part of the Republican Party platform, not a “wasteful” program to be cut. I think there has been not just substantial, but massive change in the positions of the Republican party, not as the social media meme would have one believe, but as delineated in the articles dissection of the meme.I believe that both of my then Republican parents would be appalled by the party of today.

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