Last Friday, the Trump administration rolled out a new “surge initiative” that authorized Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to arrest parents and other relatives who hire smugglers to bring their children into the U.S. McClatchy DC initially broke the news, reporting that parents of recently arrived children were receiving knocks on their doors by immigration agents asking about the children and demanding to be let in. Parents were detained by ICE if they opened the door. Some parents who refused to answer that knock were later arrested when they left their homes.
A field specialist with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the federal agency that takes custody of unaccompanied immigrant minors when they first cross the border, told McClatchy DC that “the kids are basically being used as bait at this point.”
Jessica Jones with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service stated that, prior to January, in 90 percent of cases that their organization handled, sponsors stepped forward to claim children. From January to May, that number has dropped to 30 percent.
Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, points out that this new crackdown on parents and families has larger implications than just separating families. “One of the biggest problems with this suggestion from the administration is that it gives an incentive for families to go outside of the people most appropriate to be involved in getting their children, out of fear of criminal prosecution,” Toczylowski said. “In some cases, children have fallen into the hands of real traffickers and abuses – exactly what the administration says they are trying to avoid.” Read more here