Statement: First Focus Campaign for Children Calls on Administration to “Do No Harm”

It’s hard to believe we’re here again.

Apparently, the inhumane treatment enforced by the Department of Homeland Security under departing Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was not inhumane enough for the Trump Administration, which reportedly is once again considering family separation as a policy option. The so-called “binary option” would force families seeking legal asylum in this country to waive fundamental Flores Settlement protections, clearing the way for the government to warehouse them in unlicensed detention facilities or to force them to turn their children over to the federal government. This is a false choice as both options would cause immense harm to children.

“We call on the President to guarantee that any new secretary — whether acting or confirmed — shall first Do No Harm to children, whether it’s by separating them from their parents or by detaining them,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the advocacy group First Focus Campaign for Children. “The Administration must stop using children as pawns in pursuit of a policy to waylay asylum-seeking families and must only act in the best interest of the child. This cruel and abhorrent strategy violates basic human rights and is not the way a great nation treats children.”

The Administration only recently revealed that it will take two years to reunite the families it broke apart during previous separations under the horrific “zero tolerance” policy. Those separations drew international attention for prying babies from their mother’s arms before deportation and have been deemed “government-sanctioned child abuse” by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They should never be repeated.

In addition, we urge President Trump to abandon calls to eliminate the crucial protections for children offered by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 and the Flores Settlement Agreement. These protections are not “loopholes,” as administration officials have called them. Without them, children will suffer horrific prison-like conditions and risk being returned to the dangerous situations from which they fled.

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