BY ERIC PAVRI, ESQ
The president’s Executive Order on immigration, dated June 20, 2018 – Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation – is deceptive in its wording. It eliminates the bad optics by saying they won’t separate “alien families” during the pendency of criminal or immigration proceedings but mandating detention of these same “alien families,” parents plus children, whether the alien family presented “at or between” a Port of Entry.
The order directly references trying to overcome a court order called the Flores Settlement, which mandated that families with children should be detained for the minimal amount of time necessary – in practice, the amount of time had recently been less than 30 days – to make this new policy of indefinite detention pending deportation proceedings possible. It doesn’t undo the “no tolerance,” 100 percent prosecution policy for illegal entry; it just states that now instead of separating the mother and child, the adult AND child will both be detained together, pending the criminal case against the mother AND during the subsequent deportation proceedings (the current policy is that they would usually be given a bond or released on parole). The Order also mandates that the military (Department of Defense) begin constructing new camps to hold all these families that will no longer be released. Basically, they are trying to create a family imprisonment system like the Dilley, Texas detention facility, where Catholic Charities Family Immigration staff has gone on several occasions to help families prepare for their asylum hearings.
The Order also specifically mandates detention for all “alien families,” including those who lawfully present themselves to request asylum at a U.S. Port of Entry checkpoint – not just those who try to cross the border illegally between the Ports of Entry physically. In the past, such families who came to the border checkpoints properly to ask for asylum had been released on parole, often with ankle monitors, then to fight their cases in Immigration Court in the future. This, combined with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s legal decision last week nearly eliminating asylum as an option for domestic violence victims, is just the newest way of sending the message of deterrence.
This is designed very well from a public relations standpoint. The news headlines will be “Under Intense Public Pressure, Trump Ends Family Separation,” and there won’t be more photos and audio of toddlers ripped from their mother’s arms. However, not only does it set up a new system of indefinite detention of families, but it also does nothing to reunify those families already separated. We must remain vigilant in our beliefs and pray for these families.
Eric Pavri is the former director of Family Immigration Services