Texas civil rights group says hundreds of families have been separated since court order last year

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 25: Activists rally and call on the Trump administration to meet tomorrow's court ordered deadline to return immigrant children to their families after being separated at the southern border, outside Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, July 25, 2018 in New York City. A federal judge ordered a July 26 deadline for the U.S. government to reunite over 2,000 migrant children ages 5 to 17 that had been separated from their families. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A leader with a top civil rights organization says the forcible separation of families at the U.S. southern border has continued. “In a single morning last week at the courthouse,” writes Efrén Olivares of the Texas Civil Rights Project, “I saw President Donald Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy tear seven families apart.” In fact, he continues, his organization has counted at least 785 families “that have been separated since then just in McAllen.”

Many of these separations have been of families that the federal government doesn’t consider families, but are families nonetheless, and the crimes against them have received considerable less attention than those against biological parents and their children. “We have witnessed hundreds of siblings, uncles and aunts, cousins and grandparents go through the same suffering of losing a child as biological parents face. Often, these relatives are the only form of parents the children know. Their trauma goes unrecognized, unreported and ignored.”

This comports with reports from members of Congress who have visited the unlicensed prison camp for migrant children in Homestead, Florida, and said that they met kids who told them they’d been separated from their families. The Trump administration has claimed that the prison camp jails children who came to the U.S. by themselves. “If they came with an uncle, an aunt, an older brother or sister, they’re not considered separated,” said Texas Rep. Sylvia Garcia. “We spoke with a number of kids and they all said they said they came with someone. But they were separated, so it’s still happening.” 

Not only is it still happening, but this crime against humanity committed by the Trump administration has stretched out much farther than anyone could have ever imagined. Following a court order earlier this year, the administration said that it had identified at least 1,712 additional children it may have stolen from families before the family separation policy was ever announced, and because officials are only partially through their examination of thousands of government documents, many more children could be added to that tally.

“What are we supposed to tell these families as they frantically ask about their children?” Olivares continues. “That family separation rates are no longer skyrocketing? That things are back to ‘normal’? Little consolation to people who have been separated from their children and do not know when they will see them again. This is unacceptable. Until zero tolerance ends, my team and I will be in court every day to continue documenting its human toll and make sure the rest of America has a window into the cruelty this administration has committed in their name.”

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