US Separating Increasing Number of Children from Parents at Border

U.S. officials are separating undocumented children who cross the southern border with their parents at a faster rate than the government had previously acknowledged, data provided to reporters by immigration officials on Tuesday shows.

In the 35 days from May 5 to June 9, some 2,342 children — an average of 67 a day — were separated from their parents or custodians as the adults faced federal criminal charges for entering the country illegally, as well as deportation proceedings, as a result of a new policy the Trump administration refers to as “zero-tolerance.”

Numbers provided by the Department of Homeland Security late last week indicated that between April 19 and May 31, 1,995 children were removed from their parents and held in government-funded shelters, averaging roughly 48 separations a day.

Those dates roughly coincide with when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy on April 6, and when DHS – which includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection – joined the initiative on May 7. VOA has requested additional data on separations from DHS that coincides with those key dates of the initiative.

Sessions ordered that all migrants crossing the border illegally be swiftly placed into federal criminal court proceedings for illegal entry into the country. With parents or custodians detained on federal charges, according to DHS the children cannot accompany the adults to those facilities, and are rendered “unaccompanied minors.”

They are then placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which contracts out to non-profits; those organizations are in turn are running shelters to hold the children, some of which are younger than 4.

An audio recording made inside one such shelter by investigative news outlet ProPublica revealed wailing children pleading for their parents.

A request for information on the number of reunifications or deportations that have taken place since the policy was announced in April was not immediately provided on Tuesday’s call with DHS officials; a subsequent request by VOA for that data has not yet received a response.

Sharp criticism followed the recent decisions by Trump and his Cabinet officials, who have at times referred to the policy as a deterrent to border crossers, but also denied that it could be considered a “policy,” as DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at the White House on Monday.

In a strongly-worded statement Monday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein denounced the US policy.

“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” al-Hussein said.

 

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US Separating Increasing Number of Children from Parents at Border

U.S. officials are separating undocumented children who cross the southern border with their parents at a faster rate than the government had previously acknowledged, data provided to reporters by immigration officials on Tuesday shows.

In the 35 days from May 5 to June 9, some 2,342 children — an average of 67 a day — were separated from their parents or custodians as the adults faced federal criminal charges for entering the country illegally, as well as deportation proceedings, as a result of a new policy the Trump administration refers to as “zero-tolerance.”

Numbers provided by the Department of Homeland Security late last week indicated that between April 19 and May 31, 1,995 children were removed from their parents and held in government-funded shelters, averaging roughly 48 separations a day.

Those dates roughly coincide with when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy on April 6, and when DHS – which includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection – joined the initiative on May 7. VOA has requested additional data on separations from DHS that coincides with those key dates of the initiative.

Sessions ordered that all migrants crossing the border illegally be swiftly placed into federal criminal court proceedings for illegal entry into the country. With parents or custodians detained on federal charges, according to DHS the children cannot accompany the adults to those facilities, and are rendered “unaccompanied minors.”

They are then placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which contracts out to non-profits; those organizations are in turn are running shelters to hold the children, some of which are younger than 4.

An audio recording made inside one such shelter by investigative news outlet ProPublica revealed wailing children pleading for their parents.

A request for information on the number of reunifications or deportations that have taken place since the policy was announced in April was not immediately provided on Tuesday’s call with DHS officials; a subsequent request by VOA for that data has not yet received a response.

Sharp criticism followed the recent decisions by Trump and his Cabinet officials, who have at times referred to the policy as a deterrent to border crossers, but also denied that it could be considered a “policy,” as DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at the White House on Monday.

In a strongly-worded statement Monday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein denounced the US policy.

“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” al-Hussein said.

 

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From Texas Border, a Close Up View of Migrant Family Separation

As Congress mulls over the future of two House immigration bills, migrant families who entered the United States illegally continue to be separated as a result of the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy. In South Texas, VOA spoke with activists seeking an end to the practice, along with migrants who were lucky enough to avoid separation. Ramon Taylor reports.

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From Texas Border, a Close Up View of Migrant Family Separation

As Congress mulls over the future of two House immigration bills, migrant families who entered the United States illegally continue to be separated as a result of the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy. In South Texas, VOA spoke with activists seeking an end to the practice, along with migrants who were lucky enough to avoid separation. Ramon Taylor reports.

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South Korea Backs Ending US Military Exercises

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang, Kyung-wha said on Wednesday that the U.S. and South Korea jointly made the decision to suspend combined military exercises scheduled for August, but would not confirm if her government was given advanced notice before U.S. President Trump announced his intention to cancel the drills, after he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12.

“We have made it clear that this is a goodwill gesture to strengthen the dialogue momentum at this point, but they are not irreversible. They could quickly come back should we see the dialogue momentum losing speed or North Korea not living up to its denuclearization commitment,” said Foreign Minister Kang.

Diplomatic momentum

During a press briefing in Seoul, the foreign minister said she was in in close communication with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the drills directly following the Singapore summit. And while the announcement canceling the exercises came suddenly, Kang said, South Korea was also considering this option to keep diplomatic momentum moving forward following the U.S.-North Korea summit where Kim reaffirmed his commitment to the “complete denuclearization” of North Korea.

The now cancelled Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises normally held in August usually bring in 3,000 more American troops from abroad and involve 50,000 South Korean troops.

No decision has yet been made whether the other large-scale joint exercise held in the spring would be suspended as well. 

At the Singapore summit Trump said he would cancel the “war games” that he said were both enormously expensive and “provocative,” as an act of good faith and in response to North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization, its continued suspension of nuclear and missile teats, and the recent closing of its nuclear testing site.

North Korea has long called for the end of these joint military exercises that it says are offensive “rehearsals for war.” 

In the past U.S. officials refused to suspend the joint drills, that they defended as defensive in nature and legal under international law, for a pledge from North Korea to freeze its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities that are prohibited by United Nations resolutions.

Kang also reiterated South Korea’s commitment to the U.S. alliance and said there has been no discussion about reducing the U.S. military presence in the country. 

President Trump raised concerns over the future of the alliance when he said in Singapore that he would like to withdraw all or some of the over 28,000 troops in South Korea at some point in the future, as both a cost saving measure, and to reduce a perceived overextended U.S. military presence overseas.

No sanctions relief

On the tough United Nations sanctions against North Korea, Kang echoed Washington’s position that they remain in place until there is “concrete action on complete denuclearization,” but she said other undefined measures could be offered in response to Pyongyang’s continued progress.

“Now when we talk about action, there is a lot that can be done prior to lifting of the sanctions. There are good faith measures. There are confidence building measures and the suspension of the military exercises is one such good faith measure,” said Kang.

However South Korean economic engagement with the North, she said, would be confined to research and development efforts only. 

At the inter-Korean summit in April, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to explore ways to promote economic cooperation and work to modernize inter-Korean railways and roads that could provide the South with land routes to China and Russia that would reach Europe. 

Talks between the U.S. and North Korea are expected to be scheduled soon to expand Kim’s denuclearization pledge into a comprehensive plan that would detail the list of nuclear weapons, related facilities and ballistic missile systems to be eliminated, a dismantlement timeline, and verification process.

It also needs to be clearly defined the security guarantee and economic assistance North Korea would be provided for ending its nuclear program. 

Kang expects this year to come up with an agreed upon peace declaration, but expects it will take a long time to develop a peace treaty to replace the armistice put in place at the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Kim met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday during a two-day visit to Beijing, where they discussed the denuclearization agreement reached in Singapore. 

After the summit North Korea state media reported that Trump agreed to a “step-by-step” process linking concessions to incremental progress, while U.S. officials insist that complete denuclearization must come before any relief is offered.

Inter-Korean talks are also continuing to ease tensions and increase cooperation. Military to military dialogue has been reestablished. The two Koreas also agreed this week to field unified teams at some events during the upcoming Asian Games scheduled for August in Indonesia.

Lee Yoon-jee in Seoul contributed to this report.

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South Korea Backs Ending US Military Exercises

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang, Kyung-wha said on Wednesday that the U.S. and South Korea jointly made the decision to suspend combined military exercises scheduled for August, but would not confirm if her government was given advanced notice before U.S. President Trump announced his intention to cancel the drills, after he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12.

“We have made it clear that this is a goodwill gesture to strengthen the dialogue momentum at this point, but they are not irreversible. They could quickly come back should we see the dialogue momentum losing speed or North Korea not living up to its denuclearization commitment,” said Foreign Minister Kang.

Diplomatic momentum

During a press briefing in Seoul, the foreign minister said she was in in close communication with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the drills directly following the Singapore summit. And while the announcement canceling the exercises came suddenly, Kang said, South Korea was also considering this option to keep diplomatic momentum moving forward following the U.S.-North Korea summit where Kim reaffirmed his commitment to the “complete denuclearization” of North Korea.

The now cancelled Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises normally held in August usually bring in 3,000 more American troops from abroad and involve 50,000 South Korean troops.

No decision has yet been made whether the other large-scale joint exercise held in the spring would be suspended as well. 

At the Singapore summit Trump said he would cancel the “war games” that he said were both enormously expensive and “provocative,” as an act of good faith and in response to North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization, its continued suspension of nuclear and missile teats, and the recent closing of its nuclear testing site.

North Korea has long called for the end of these joint military exercises that it says are offensive “rehearsals for war.” 

In the past U.S. officials refused to suspend the joint drills, that they defended as defensive in nature and legal under international law, for a pledge from North Korea to freeze its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities that are prohibited by United Nations resolutions.

Kang also reiterated South Korea’s commitment to the U.S. alliance and said there has been no discussion about reducing the U.S. military presence in the country. 

President Trump raised concerns over the future of the alliance when he said in Singapore that he would like to withdraw all or some of the over 28,000 troops in South Korea at some point in the future, as both a cost saving measure, and to reduce a perceived overextended U.S. military presence overseas.

No sanctions relief

On the tough United Nations sanctions against North Korea, Kang echoed Washington’s position that they remain in place until there is “concrete action on complete denuclearization,” but she said other undefined measures could be offered in response to Pyongyang’s continued progress.

“Now when we talk about action, there is a lot that can be done prior to lifting of the sanctions. There are good faith measures. There are confidence building measures and the suspension of the military exercises is one such good faith measure,” said Kang.

However South Korean economic engagement with the North, she said, would be confined to research and development efforts only. 

At the inter-Korean summit in April, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to explore ways to promote economic cooperation and work to modernize inter-Korean railways and roads that could provide the South with land routes to China and Russia that would reach Europe. 

Talks between the U.S. and North Korea are expected to be scheduled soon to expand Kim’s denuclearization pledge into a comprehensive plan that would detail the list of nuclear weapons, related facilities and ballistic missile systems to be eliminated, a dismantlement timeline, and verification process.

It also needs to be clearly defined the security guarantee and economic assistance North Korea would be provided for ending its nuclear program. 

Kang expects this year to come up with an agreed upon peace declaration, but expects it will take a long time to develop a peace treaty to replace the armistice put in place at the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Kim met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday during a two-day visit to Beijing, where they discussed the denuclearization agreement reached in Singapore. 

After the summit North Korea state media reported that Trump agreed to a “step-by-step” process linking concessions to incremental progress, while U.S. officials insist that complete denuclearization must come before any relief is offered.

Inter-Korean talks are also continuing to ease tensions and increase cooperation. Military to military dialogue has been reestablished. The two Koreas also agreed this week to field unified teams at some events during the upcoming Asian Games scheduled for August in Indonesia.

Lee Yoon-jee in Seoul contributed to this report.

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Trump Meeting With Lawmakers Amid Migrant Controversy

U.S. President Donald Trump is meeting with Republican lawmakers Tuesday about immigration legislation amid growing cries for him to end his migrant policy separating children from their parents at the U.S. southern border with Mexico as they illegally enter the United States.

Trump, in several Twitter comments, continued to defend his break-up-the-families policy, saying, “We must always arrest people coming into our Country illegally.”

He said, “Now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration. Get it done, always keeping in mind that we must have strong border security.”

The House of Representatives is set to vote later in the week on two immigration bills, including provisions that would curb the separation of children from their parents at the border. The measures would also create a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million young immigrants already in the U.S. who were brought illegally to the U.S. years ago by their parents, but it is not clear that either piece of legislation has enough votes to win passage.

In a meeting with Republican senators Monday, Trump threatened to shut the government in late September, as a new fiscal year starts October 1, if Congress does not approve $25 billion in funding for a wall along the Mexican border to thwart further illegal migration into the U.S. So far, Congress has approved little funding for the barrier, keeping Trump from meeting one of his signature vows during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Numerous Republican and Democratic lawmakers have called for Trump to abandon the border policy as indefensible. All four former living U.S. first ladies, Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Rosalynn Carter, condemned the separation of children from their parents.

Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, through a spokeswoman, said she “hates to see children separated from their families” and that the U.S. should be “a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

One Republican governor, Maryland’s Larry Hogan, in an act of protest of Trump’s policy on breaking up families when they are detained, withdrew the state’s small National Guard contingent from the border where it had been assisting federal agents. Another Republican governor, Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker, dropped his offer to send troops to the border.

In a Washington speech, Trump said Mexico does “nothing for us” to block the flow of immigrants from reaching the U.S.

“If you don’t have Borders, you don’t have a Country!” Trump tweeted.

He once again inaccurately blamed opposition Democrats for the border dispute, even though his administration set the policy on separating children from their parents.

“Democrats are the problem,” Trump tweeted. “They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!

Mexico weighed in on the controversy, strongly rebuking Trump.

“In the name of the Mexican government and people, I want to express our most categorical and energetic condemnation of this cruel and inhuman policy,” Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told a news conference.

 

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Former Federal Prosecutors Urge Sessions to End Family Separations

A bipartisan group of more than 70 former United States attorneys is urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end a policy of separating the children of illegal immigrants from their parents at the border, saying his recently announced “zero-tolerance” policy has caused “unnecessary trauma and suffering of innocent children.”

“Like the majority of Americans, we have been horrified by the images and stories of children torn from their families along our nation’s Southwest Border,” the group wrote in a letter issued late Monday.

“But as former United States Attorneys, we also emphasize that the Zero Tolerance policy is a radical departure from previous Justice Department policy, and that it is dangerous, expensive, and inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served,” they wrote.

Under the “zero-tolerance” policy recently announced by Sessions, “100 percent” of immigrants illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border would be referred for prosecution, while children and parents would be separated.

“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said last month while announcing the new initiative. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

Statistics released by the Department of Homeland Security show that more than 2,300 children were separated from their parents between May 5 and June 9.

Audio recordings and images of young children held at warehouses have sparked a national outcry, with Democrats and some Republicans urging the administration to end the policy.

Administration officials, denying they have a “family separation policy,” have said Congress can put an end to the crisis by passing new immigration laws.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Monday that the Trump administration “did not create a policy of separating families at the border,” contending that both the Bush and the Obama administrations separated families, albeit at a lower rate.

“This is not new,” Nielsen said. “We have a statutory responsibility that we take seriously to protect alien children from human smuggling, trafficking and other criminal actions, while enforcing our immigration laws,” she told a press conference.

Sessions, speaking at a gathering of the National Sheriffs Association on Monday, stood by the administration’s policy.

“We do not want to separate children from their parents,” he said. “We do not want adults to bring children into this country unlawfully, placing them at risk.”

WATCH: Sessions on separating parents, children

Under the new initiative, parents are held at adult detention centers near the border, while children, reportedly including infants and children, are transferred to refurbished shelters, sometimes thousands of miles away.

In their open letter, the former prosecutors wrote that the law “does not require the systematic separation of families under these circumstances.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the letter.

 

 

 

 

 

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