Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

The Trump administration has separated more than 2,000 children from their parents and guardians since unveiling its "zero tolerance" policy in May. (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

'Sickening': With So-Called 'Voluntary' Deportation, Trump's DHS Using Children as Bait to Expel Immigrants

Parents are told that if they sign a "voluntary departure order," they'll see their children again—a claim immigration attorneys say is both akin to blackmail, and likely untrue

After outraging Americans and the international community by holding thousands of children hostage in an effort to push through President Donald Trump's hard-line immigration policy, the Trump administration is again using children who have been taken from their parents as pawns—to get detained immigrants to agree to their own deportations and drop their asylum cases.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a fact sheet over the weekend stating that detained parents who sign a so-called "voluntary departure order"—paperwork that simply expedites deportation—can be reunited with their children.

"A parent who is ordered removed from the U.S. may request that his or her minor child accompany them," according to DHS—but critics and immigrant rights advocates have noted that presenting this possibility to parents who have been put through a traumatizing ordeal, is akin to kidnapping children and then using them as bait to get immigrants out of the country.

"We have no reason to believe that [voluntary deportation] is the fastest way for parents to be reunited with their children," Efrén Olivares, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, told reporters on Sunday. "Putting them in that position is not a voluntary [deportation]; it's being obtained under duress."

MSNBC's Jacob Soboroff reported that many parents do sign the paperwork after being told that doing so will bring them a step closer to seeing their children—even if it means the family will be sent back to the country they left in the hopes of seeking asylum, often fleeing violence and political unrest.

"I was told I would not be deported without my daughter," one 24-year-old father told the Texas Tribune. "I signed it out of desperation...but the truth is I can't go back to Honduras; I need help."

The man was hoping to revoke the order and appeal a court's decision that he was not eligible for asylum.

Other parents have opted not to sign the orders, putting themselves at risk for being deported on their own—and potentially never seeing their children again.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

NYC Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams Rebuked for 'Dangerous' 400-Students-to-1-Teacher Theory

"Defunding schools to the point that we have a 400:1 student-to-teacher ratio so we can bankroll another huge expansion in an already-multibillion dollar police budget," said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, "is how you build a school-to-prison pipeline."

Jon Queally, staff writer ·


Lack of Patent Waiver Would Add Over $70 Billion to Cost of Vaccinating World: Oxfam

Most of that money, said a spokesperson for the group, "will go directly into the pockets" of Big Pharma shareholders.

Jon Queally, staff writer ·


Darnella Frazier Receives Pulitzer Special Citation 'for Courageously Recording the Murder of George Floyd'

"Without Darnella, Derek Chauvin never would have been tried and George Floyd would have been blamed by the state for his own death."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


'We Are Sounding the Alarm': Global Left Warns Right-Wing Fujimori Trying to Steal Election in Peru

"Fujimori’s only way forward to victory is simple: annul tens of thousands of already tallied votes," warned Progressive International. "Powerful forces are organizing to deliver this outcome."

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·


'Climate Denial Masquerading as Bipartisanship': Progressives Reject Latest Infrastructure Compromise

"Refusing to act on climate means selling out future generations. The future of our planet and the health of our communities are non-negotiable."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·