Over the last few weeks, the Trump administration, through Attorney General Jeff Sessions, instituted a “zero-tolerance policy” that tore children from their parents upon arrest at the U.S.-Mexico border. Most of these families have come to the border seeking asylum due to the danger they face in their home country. According to immigration and international law, families are permitted to come to the border and to seek asylum.
As an organization whose purpose is to provide a voice to legal issues affecting the Hispanic community, the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association will not stand silent while families are being torn apart. Many of our members are immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants. We stand in solidarity with those who are being persecuted and criminalized for asking for help. Many of our members are parents who have small children who look up to them to set an example, so we are speaking out against such bullying and aggression. As human beings who believe in the humane treatment of others, members of the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association demands fairness and justice for all.
The “zero-tolerance policy” was instated as a deterrent for foreign nationals from coming to the border and to punish those who are already here. Tearing apart families is not the answer. Now, the administration that condoned this policy has attempted to placate the outrage by signing an executive order to jail parents and children together. The new executive order, however, comes at a price: imprisonment for an indefinite amount of time. The administration further wants to deport families and individuals without due process of law.
Additionally, the new order does not address whether the thousands of children who were taken from their parents since the “zero-tolerance policy” was instituted will be reunited. It also strips children of many of the protections afforded to them through the 1997 Flores settlement agreement. The agreement requires the government to place children in the “least restrictive conditions” possible and with a close relative or family friend “without undue delay,” which can be accomplished by releasing children with their parents while their cases are heard. Human beings asking for help should not be caged like animals.
We stand with the Maryland State Bar Association on this issue. This is not a red or blue issue, this is a human rights issue. We demand that the current administration adhere to the Flores settlement agreement and allow families to be released pending a resolution to their immigration cases, and that Congress make swift changes to the current immigration policies to ensure that human rights, dignity, and justice prevail in the United States of America.
The writers are president and social advocacy chair, respectively of the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association.