Last week, our team in Harlingen alerted us that DHS was unlawfully deporting unaccompanied children who had come to the border seeking protection. According to federal law, children who arrive at the border alone must be allowed into the country and transferred to government custody where they will have the chance to seek reunification with family members or relatives. But the government is using COVID-19 as a pretext for avoiding its legal obligation to these children. When reporters asked questions, DHS admitted it was putting children on planes to the very countries they’d fled rather than designating them as unaccompanied and transferring them to protective custody in the U.S.
Protecting public health and following the law for children seeking help at our door is not a zero-sum game. Our country is capable of doing both. We’ve rung the alarm in the media and on the Hill, arguing for children’s speedy transfer to ORR custody and swift reunification with families. We were heartened to see the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Dick Durbin, and Representative Zoe Lofgren demand that DHS follow the law and protect children who arrive at our borders.
Within the United States, the effort to swiftly deport children marches on. The Department of Justice has been relentless in keeping immigration courts open, endangering children’s lives. We’ve been relentless in our response. Today, Young Center Founder and Executive Director Maria Woltjen asked members of Congress and the public to take action in her op-ed in The Hill. Our push to postpone children’s court hearings until after the health crisis passes will continue as long as the children we serve are forced to appear in court.
Thank you for the outpouring of support in these difficult times. We’ll continue to share updates by email and on Twitter.