Children's rights and immigrant rights advocates are incensed over the forced separation of a Congolese woman and her seven-year-old daughter who arrived in the United States last November, seeking asylum.
The woman is being held in a detention facility in San Diego while her daughter is being held 2,000 miles away in Chicago by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has given no reason for separating the two.
"Tearing apart asylum seekers and their families is abhorrent and counter to child welfare practices, federal law, and international laws and treaties," Sandy Santana, executive director of Children's Rights, said in a statement Monday. "It also stands in stark contrast to this administration's purported commitment to family values."
Along with the Children's Defense Fund, the Juvenile Law Center, and a dozen other advocacy groups, Children's Rights filed an amicus brief on Monday in support of the mother and child in a lawsuit filed against the Trump administration by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
According to the brief, the separation of the mother and her child is "an unconscionable overreach of government power violating fundamental principles of fairness, including substantive due process rights under U.S. constitutional law, and threatens one of our most fundamental social constructs, the family.
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After fleeing political unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the mother and daughter passed a "credible fear" interview upon arriving at San Ysidro Port of Entry in California, convincing immigration officials that they should be granted an asylum hearing.
But days later, ICE inexplicably moved the woman into Otay Messa Detention Center in San Diego and sent her child to Chicago, "without justification or even a hearing." The two have spoken over the phone just six times since their separation.
The Trump administration has considered proposals to separate families who attempt to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, sparking outcry from critics.
The separation of refugee or immigrant parents from their children without a hearing is a violation of due process rights, say immigrant rights groups, while children's health experts warn of the long-lasting effects a separation like the one the mother and her daughter could have on the child.