Yesterday, by unanimous vote of the King County Council, we called upon the Trump administration to end their policy of stripping children from their parents as they enter the United States. The motion, which I sponsored, urges the Administration to release all immigrants and allow them to reunite with the families while their asylum claims are processed.
In April, the Administration implemented a policy that greatly expands the practice of separating families who cross the border without documentation, including families who are seeking asylum. Since then, at least 2,000 children have been separated from their parents, including children as young as 18 months old.
These children are being placed in foster care or being held at federal facilities, including overcrowded shelters, converted Walmarts and, soon, tent cities. Federal officials have reportedly refused to share information about the children’s whereabouts with some parents. Other officials at the Department of Health and Human Services have said that, moving forward, they expect to take in about 250 children per day.
Experts have described the traumatic effects of separation on the children, including long-term health effects like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even heart disease. The American College of Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all called for the Administration to stop separating families at the border. The United Nations Human Rights Office has described it as a violation of the rights of the children and their families and a violation of international law, urging an immediate halt to the practice.
Federal legislation has been introduced preventing the Department of Homeland Security from continuing the practice of separating families who have entered the country either undocumented or seeking asylum. But none of this legislation has passed.
We are a nation of laws, but there are moral lines that we should never cross and implementing a system of taking children from their families with no clear path to reunite them is one of them. There is no underlying law that requires children to be taken from their parents if the family crosses the border without documentation.
The Administration has implemented this policy voluntarily and has full power to reverse it. We are calling on them to do so. Separating children from their parents is a cruel and unnecessary act that does nothing to make our country safer. As a mother, as a human being—it is heartbreaking to imagine the trauma and suffering this practice inflicts on both the children and the parents. I will not stand silently while families are needlessly torn apart and I hope my neighbors will join me in opposing this policy.