This statement was originally published by Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR).
In an effort to punish immigrants crossing the Southern border of the United States, the current administration adopted a so-called “zero-tolerance” policy against those seeking entry, resulting in the separation of children from their parents. This policy is the latest in a series of actions over the past year-and-a-half that have altered how we treat migrants seeking refuge at our borders and reversed our historical role as a beacon of hope and freedom for the world’s most vulnerable people.
In response to widespread public outcry, the administration recently issued an executive order that would allow it to detain family members together indefinitely. Detaining children indefinitely—either with or without their parents—not only violates existing law, but it also runs counter to long-established best practices and norms in the child welfare arena as well as basic tenets of morality and human decency.
As of this statement’s publication, more than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s own statistics. These parents are still languishing in immigration detention without information about the whereabouts of their children, including many under the age of four, while others are at risk of permanently losing custody after being deported without their children against their will. The newly issued executive order on family detention does nothing to reunite these separated children with their parents.
Family separation is causing profound trauma for both children and parents rising to the level of a “crisis of sorrow.” Mothers have described hearing their children’s screams from the next room after being separated, and at least one parent has committed suicide after his child was taken away from him. The United Nations considers the practice “a serious violation of the rights of the child,” the American Bar Association calls it “inhumane,” and the American Psychological Association believes it is “needless and cruel.” The American Academy of Pediatrics condemns the practice, explaining that the resulting fear and stress can harm children’s developing brains as well as short- and long-term health.
We, the undersigned, stand united in our belief that separating families, as well as detaining them together indefinitely, is morally unacceptable and traumatic for parents and children. We have a collective responsibility to act with compassion when responding to the needs of those who come to our country seeking protection. We urge our grantmaking colleagues to join us in speaking out, shifting the public discourse locally and nationally, boldly taking action, and responding generously and swiftly to on-the-ground needs.
Together, we stand firm in shared values of fairness, compassion, and family integrity that underpin our work in philanthropy and our very identity as a nation.