By Chase Lacy
Rabat – What is #Keepfamiliestogether? It is a hashtag that represents the fury in the US and internationally over the US policy of separating the families of asylum seekers and irregular immigrants since the “zero-tolerance” policy went into effect in April.
As US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “illegally entering this country will not be rewarded, but will instead be met with full prosecutorial power of the Department of Justice.
Between April and May, 1,995 children were separated from their parents. While parents are prosecuted as criminal offenders for crossing the border, their minors are sent to relatives already in the US or to shelters.
At the shelters, children have been kept in cages, distraught, crying, and begging for their parents. To make conditions worse, staff have been prohibited from physically consoling the children.
The official “ports of entry” have been excruciatingly slow and turned away scores of people. Many of those detained have crossed the border illegally, and even those that applied for asylum after crossing are being prosecuted as criminals.
Article 13 of the Refugee Convention says that states shall not criminalize those seeking asylum, whether they have entered illegally or not.
Even the US Department of Homeland Security’s own guidelines state that “Any individual processed for removal, including those who are criminally prosecuted for illegal entry, may seek asylum or other protection available under law.”
Under the Obama administration the separation of families did occur in some cases, however, under the Trump administration, the practice has become systematic. Under the current policy, however, there are no priorities, and even those with misdemeanors are subject to criminal prosecution.
The ugly paradigm is that these children are identified as unaccompanied minors and resettled in the US, while their parents are prosecuted and potentially deported without the ability to locate or contact their children.
The Trump administration has claimed that their hands are tied by the law regarding the separation of families, though none of these laws necessitated the separation of families. President Trump’s claim he was tied by congressional inaction was discredited on Wednesday by his executive order to end separations.