July 23, 2018 — In response to U.S. federal courts giving the Trump Administration a deadline of July 26th to reunify nearly 3,000 children who have been separated from their parents at the U.S. border, the International Rescue Committee is mobilizing a rapid response to offer emergency assistance as well as case management to families who have been released from immigration custody.
The IRC will provide a range of services to asylum-seeking families through its 27 office network spanning the United States. These services will be provided in two general areas:
- Emergency assistance, which includes temporary housing, emergency medical services, access to communications, transportation, and other basic needs.
- Case management support such as providing clients with knowledge on their legal rights, mental health and social integration assistance, job placement services, and limited legal services in addition to referrals for more complex legal needs.
“Central American families fleeing violence and persecution are being unnecessarily detained and children re-traumatised when they arrive in the United States. The Administration’s ‘zero-tolerance policy’ resulted in the separation of thousands of children, including babies and toddlers, being held in U.S. custody, after being ripped away from their parents,” said Hans Van de Weerd, Vice President of US Programs. “The IRC will support parents and children seeking refuge in the United States to find safety and stability as they await their asylum hearings. We will be helping to meet their basic needs, facilitate family reunifications, connect them to critical legal services and help them access psychosocial support. The Administration must swiftly reunify children, end family separation, and reverse course on dangerous trends in asylum erosions.”
Seeking asylum from conflict and warzones is not a crime
In recent years, the vast majority of asylum seekers have been determined to have credible fear--meaning there is a possibility they are eligible for asylum. International refugee law--which the U.S. led efforts to develop in the wake of World War II--recognises the reality that refugees fleeing persecution are often not in a position to follow regular migration procedures. As a result, turning away asylum seekers who seek protection at official ports of entry and prosecuting asylum seekers for “illegal entry” when they present themselves to immigration officials are clear violations of both U.S. law and international obligations the U.S. helped to shape.
Several human rights organisations have documented systemic turn backs at official U.S. ports of entry. In other words, even when asylum seekers have made their way to an official U.S. border crossing and asked for asylum, U.S. border officials have turned them back to Mexico, in violation of both U.S. treaty obligations and domestic law.
Separating children from parents causes trauma and toxic stress in children
The IRC is very concerned about the welfare of children in detention and separated from their families and in particular, the psychological impact that separation has on children. Toxic stress from displacement and violence can stunt cognitive development and hinder a child’s ability to learn as well as predispose them to violent and aggressive behavior.
This new response builds on the IRC’s existing work with both with unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the United States and with newly resettled refugees and asylees. Prior to the new policy, the children IRC served were unaccompanied children who had not been forcibly separated from their parents, but rather had come to the U.S. to seek protection on their own, often with the intention of reuniting with other family members residing in the United States. Using evidence-based tools for rapid assessment of emotional distress and safety needs, the IRC will work with each family to develop a safety plan to address both physical and psychological safety and ensure they are not isolated and that they are referred to clinical care when needed.
The IRC is seeking urgent public support for this effort. Donations will help the IRC respond to and support families as they are released from detention.
For more information, or to set up interviews, please contact Charlie Ozuturk at [email protected].