U.S. Government: Stop separating undocumented families at the border

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, U.S. Attorney General (C/O Edward McMullen, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein)

As US citizens living in Switzerland, we are profoundly concerned about the Trump Administration's hard-line immigration policies and are especially disturbed by the "zero-tolerance" policy of separating children from parents crossing the US border without documentation.

We, as well as other US citizens living around the world, want to make our concerns and wishes known to to the US Attorney General and all other members of the US government involved in the creation and implementation of immigration policy.

That's why we've created this petition: to demand an end to all inhumane and discriminatory immigration policies, regardless of which administration enacted them. We demand an end to any policy that separates children from their families, and the immediate reunification of separated children with their families.

Recent timeline and links:

In January 2018: More than 200 child welfare and juvenile justice organizationssigned a letter to the DHS urging it to halt plans to separate immigrant children from their parents. It read, in part: "The psychological distress, anxiety, and depression associated with separation of a parent would follow the children well after the immediate period of separation -- even after the eventual reunification with a parent or other family."

In February 2018 ACLU filed a lawsuit for a Congolese woman who was separated from her daughter upon seeking asylum (MsL vs ICE. https://www.aclu.org/cases/ms-l-v-ice) and this lawsuit now includes hundreds of heart-breaking stories and is a class-action lawsuit against the government of the U.S.

Also in February 2018, 71 Democratic lawmakers signed a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen stating that they were “deeply disturbed” by the increasing practice of separating families, which “suggests a lack of understanding about the violence many families are fleeing in their home countries.”

On May 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would begin prosecuting every person who crossed the Southwest border illegally — or at least attempt to prosecute “100 percent” — even if some of them could or should be treated as asylum seekers.

On May 11: Chief of Staff John Kelly responded in an interview by NPR: “Even though people say that’s cruel and heartless to take a mother away from her children? “I wouldn't put it quite that way. The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.”

On May 16 Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) questioned Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen about the administration's policy of separating kids from their parents and Senator Harris concluded. “Her answers were beyond insufficient.” Also on May 16 President Trump at a “roundtable” meeting about immigration told California sheriffs that immigrants are “animals”.

On May 22 Claudia Patricia Gómez González, a 20-year-old Maya-Mam indigenous woman seeking an education in the U.S., was shot dead in the head by Border Protection (CBP) agent in the town Rio Bravo,Texas.

On May 26 on MSNBC with Chris Hayes, Lee Gelernt, Deputy Director of Immigration Rights, ACLU: “This is unprecedented. This is the worst thing I’ve seen in 25+ years of doing civil rights work…Mothers describing kids screaming mommy, mommy, 5 yrs old, 6 yrs old, and younger, and they are ripped away.  I really feel like these policy debates are becoming so abstract. If the policymakers could sit in those ICE offices down there at the border for a day and watch these little kids begging not to be taken away. They’re already traumatized by having to flee their countries, and then they are taken away. The medical evidence is overwhelming that we may be doing permanent trauma to these kids.”

And on the same MSNBC program, Laura St John/Florence Project: “What’s happening right now is really unprecedented…What we’ve seen in AZ since January over 200 cases of parents being separated from their children and some of these children are very young. We’ve actually seen children who are 2 years old regularly and just last week we saw a 53 week old infant in court without a parent…The number of people we’ve seen being separated is like nothing I’ve seen before, and I’ve been doing immigration work for a decade in AZ.  I think what is happening now is absolutely inhumane and unjustifiable.”

On May 29 in the Sacramento Bee, Sasha Abramsky:http://www.sacbee.com/article212128019.html  “Last month,The New York Times reportedthat more than 700 children have been taken in this way, and the roundup is intensifying. Immigrant-rights attorneys I spoke with believe another 658 children were taken in this way in one thirteen day period in May alone. This hideous administration has even mused about opening up disused military facilities to warehouse these unfortunate children. These acts are taking America into the darkest, most anti-democratic, and cruelest moment in its modern history.”

On May 31 MSNBC with Chris Hayes: A DHS official testified that 658 migrant children were taken from adults from May 6 to May 19, an average of about 50 children daily. https://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/dhs-official-658-children-taken-from-adults-at-border-1245015619748

On June 5 UN High Commissioner of Human Rights: “Children should never be detained for reasons related to their own or their parents’ migration status. Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation...The US should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalizing what should at most be an administrative offence – that of irregular entry or stay in the US…We call on the US authorities to adopt non-custodial alternatives that allow children to remain with their families and fulfil the best interests of the child, their right to liberty and their right to family life." http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23174&LangID=E

To: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, U.S. Attorney General (C/O Edward McMullen, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein)
From: [Your Name]

We U.S. citizens in Switzerland vehemently oppose the U.S. government's cruel, inhumane and unjustified separation of children from their parents along the U.S. border with Mexico and at other ports of entry into the U.S. We protest the conditions in which these children and their parents are kept. We protest the irreversible trauma that is being perpetrated against people who are simply seeking a better life and in are many cases fleeing serious persecution.

To separate immigrant families in this manner is both immoral and illegal. Children as young as 18 months are torn from their parents’ arms by the U.S. government for the express purpose of deterring others from crossing the border. In this way, families that have faced persecution and other extreme harm are being victimized again by the U.S. government. We oppose the inhumane policies of the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security and we call for immediate reform.

The Trump Administration's conduct is a damaging stain on the United States, a democracy founded and built by immigrants. It is a stain on U.S. citizens living abroad, and it is now a threat to the lives and safety of millions of immigrant children. What the Trump Administration is doing, with the cooperation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, is a crisis of massive proportions. Its “zero tolerance” policy, under which all adults entering without documents are prosecuted in mass criminal trials and accompanying children are taken from them as a deterrent, violates not only the U.S. Constitution but also international law. It runs totally counter to guidance from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It has been rightly decried by Amnesty International and numerous other organizations. The Trump Administration has done nothing to address the serious humanitarian and legal concerns. Instead it continues to escalate the policy of separating immigrant families, while also sowing lies and confusion in the public debate.

Many of us are ourselves immigrants in Switzlerland. Many of us are the sons or daughters of immigrants in the U.S. We are disgusted by the dehumanizing rhetoric President Trump uses against immigrant people. We demand that the Trump Administration stop using immigrant children as bargaining chips. We denounce all inhumane and discriminatory immigration policies of the Trump Administration, and also abusive policies implemented by past U.S. administrations. We demand that the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security IMMEDIATELY stop the implementation of any policy that separates children from their families, that the Administration ensure the well-being of children in its custody, and that it immediately start reuniting the separated children with their families.