Today, the Texas Civil Rights Project released a new report, The Real National Emergency: Zero Tolerance & the Continuing Horrors of Family Separation at the Border, showing how family separations have continued at the Southwest border.
The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center provides legal services to every child who comes to Michigan as an "unaccompanied" child in federal immigration custody. This has included children unlawfully made "unaccompanied" by the government through family separation. As of October 23, 2018, every child who was separated from a parent during the 2018 height of the federal government's family separation policy and brought to Michigan in immigration custody had been reunited with their families. The Texas Civil Rights Project report, information obtained through litigation, and other evidence firmly establish that the family separation crisis is ongoing. However, prior to Friday, February 15, 2019, we had not confirmed that any new family separation referrals were accepted for placement in Michigan. This week, we have identified at least one child newly-arrived in Michigan who was separated from a parent by the Department of Homeland Security upon arrival in the United States and an additional case that raises serious questions which we continue to investigate.
The federal government's bad faith actions and complete breach of trust have put legal advocates for unaccompanied children in an extremely difficult position. Some truly unaccompanied children are fleeing persecution by family members. We represent children and youth who have fled severe abuse, human trafficking, and pervasive persecution based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This means we must listen carefully to clients of all ages to fully understand their unique situations and legal needs and make careful case-by-case decisions about our communication with our clients' families.
MIRC will take the following actions in all cases:
- We will continue to fully screen every unaccompanied child who arrives in Michigan in federal immigration custody within one week of their arrival to determine their legal rights with respect to their immigration status and custody status. This includes deep legal screening and advice about their new and emerging legal rights in all federal litigation relating to family separation.
- We will fully investigate all government assertions about the basis for any family separation, particularly any allegations of harm or abuse by parents meant to justify separation. We will communicate with clients' parents, other family members, or other third parties when appropriate and needed to understand their situations and advance their interests.
- We will continue to be in close communication about any potential family separation cases we identify with counsel, the American Civil Liberties Union, in the ongoing national class action lawsuit challenging family separation practices, Ms. L v. ICE.
- We will take necessary and appropriate legal action with regard to our individual clients' custody status in any case where it is in those clients' interest.
We are grateful to the many stakeholders and community advocates in Michigan who join us in demanding transparency and accountability from our government with respect to the treatment of children and families targeted by the family separation policy.