2,000 children separated from parents under US border policy

WASHINGTON: US officials have said the number of children who have been separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border since a new “zero tolerance” immigration policy went into place is about 2,000.
The officials, who conducted a conference call to complain about news reports on the situation in the detention centres, said 1,995 children arrived with 1,940 adults who crossed the border illegally between April 19 and May 31.
The administration is on the defensive for its zero tolerance policy calling for the immediate prosecution of the adults, which leads to the separations.
Despite sharp criticism from immigration advocates and humanitarian groups, the administration officials said the government is only following the law and responding to an increase in the number of families arriving at the border.
Law enforcement officials “are left with the choice of whether to prosecute at the border… or let [the migrants] go free and not face consequences for their illegal action,” a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official told reporters on the call.
It is a “public policy norm” that children are not incarcerated with parents who have broken the law, the official said.
Reports about the situation in the centres began surfacing this week after journalists were let in to the facilities for the first time since the policy was implemented.
The officials complained on Friday that much of the reporting about children who are being detained on the US-Mexico border after they crossed illegally into the United States with their parents has been wrong.
The DHS official said a number of things had been reported incorrectly, including that breastfeeding babies have been taken from their mothers.
“This is a deeply emotional issue and we’ve seen that emotion takes over the facts,” he said.
He also said reports saying that parents are not able to contact their children and that the detention centres have unclean drinking water were false. The children have access to education, healthcare, food and water and outdoor exercise, he said.
The policy has drawn strong reactions from some members of Congress. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said there’s no policy justification for it.
“It’s all political. The president is throwing red meat to his base when he does that,” Pelosi said. “He’s using children — whether they are dreamers or whether they are little children — at the border now for political purpose. It’s shameful.” — dpa