The recent uptick in reports that Department of Homeland Security is separating the children of asylum seekers from their immigrant parents prompted the DHS watchdog to investigate whether the Donald Trump administration is engaging in this practice systematically and indiscriminately.
The fact that the DHS watchdog’s investigation is underway was revealed from a letter sent by the department’s inspector general to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois. The investigation has been launched after a series of reports claimed that DHS separated adults from children in custody.
These unsettling reports got thousands of asylum seekers in Salt Lake City, Utah and all across the United States worried. We asked our Salt Lake City family immigration attorney at the Familia America Immigration law firm to explain what is going on.
What is really going on?
Reports that DHS separates adults from their children detained in immigration jails have kept mounting since President Donald Trump assumed offices in January 2017. The DHS’s investigation is intended to clarify whether separating children from their parents in immigration custody are isolated cases or a government-orchestrated, widespread practice.
Last week, in her testimony before Congress, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted that DHS only separates children from their parents in immigration jails when it is line with the best interests of the child. For example, if the department has a reason to believe that the child is involved in human trafficking, or it is not possible to immediately confirm the relationship between the child and alleged parent and/or confirm that the child is traveling with their parents or legal guardians, in these cases DHS has legal grounds to separate children from their parents in immigration custody.
Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen admitted to the Congress that there was a case when a Congolese woman was separated from her young daughter for a long period of time because the process of confirming their DNA test was delayed. The case was resolved as soon as the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the DHS, which serves as proof that the department wants to avoid headline-making lawsuits at all cost.
That is why it is highly advised to be legally represented by a Salt Lake City family immigration attorney in order ensure that DNS does not violate your rights as an asylum seeker in the U.S. and adheres to lawful practices when handling your immigration-related case.
What does the law say about separating adults from their children in custody?
Under immigration laws in Salt Lake City and all across Utah, children cannot be detained in immigration custody for longer than 21 days (three weeks). During the presidency of Barack Obama, the government ordered immigration agents to release parents and their children together, so that asylum seekers would not be separated from their children in custody.
But during the presidency of Donald Trump, who made his opposition to immigration central to his presidential campaign, officials have lambasted the previous administration’s approach to immigration by saying that asylum seekers took advantage of this “loophole” and could stay in the U.S. for years as their immigration case worked its way through the court system.
However, DHS seems to deny reports that it separates children of asylum seekers from their parents as a systematic and widespread practice. A DHS spokesman has previously insisted that the department’s priority was to protect the interests of children at the U.S. border and ensure that children are not in danger when entering the U.S.
What to do if you were separated from your child at the border?
DHS further explains that it is not uncommon for human traffickers to use children to enter the U.S. and gain illegal entry with no fear of being detained. Here at the Familia America Immigration law firm, our best family immigration attorneys in Utah have received numerous calls from asylum seekers complaining that they were separated from their children at the border.
If you have been separated from your children at the border, do not hesitate to speak to experienced attorneys in Salt Lake City or elsewhere in Utah. Call our offices at 801-656-9605 or fill out this contact form to get a consultation. Se habla Espanol.