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A Need to Know Basis: Immigration

ICE police officer making an arrest. Photo provided by Wikipedia Commons.
ICE police officer making an arrest. Photo provided by Wikipedia Commons.

The crisis at the United States border has dominated national news for months, but there is still confusion about the fate of separated families and what this means for immigration policy as a whole. Here’s a breakdown of what’s true, false and in between.


The government has been reuniting families.  

Fact Check: While U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw issued that all families must be reunited within a time limit, the July 26 deadline has come and passed. Only 1,442 of the projected 2,500 children under the age of five have been reunited with their parents, according to TIME. Even 1,058 reunions short, there seem to be no real repercussions for the administration not fully meeting the judge’s deadline.

In immigration detention centers, parents were given a 1-800 number to call in order to reunite with their kids, but the centers have time restrictions on phone calls. A majority of parents who have been reunited with their children did so through the help of outside lawyers and advocates, according to immigration reporter Jonathan Blitzer.

“There is a real danger right now as parents go from criminal to immigration custody that they are losing the very advocates who are responsible or who are able to help them reunite with their kids,” Blitzer said.

There is also a bureaucratic obstacle to these reunions. The different governmental bodies responsible for immigrant minors and immigrant adults do not have solid avenues for communication. Volunteer attorneys have been having trouble getting answers from both departments on the whereabouts of the children they are trying to reunite.

"If you've got people from the best law firms in America who are struggling to navigate this system, can you imagine how difficult it is for people trapped in the system?" attorney Jennifer Rikoski said.


Immigrant children are being forced to represent themselves in court.

Fact Check: Usually children accompany their parents in court when waiting to be charged with illegally crossing the border or having their asylum plea heard. Under the “zero tolerance policy,” however, these children are appearing in court alone.

“The parent might be the only one who knows why they fled from the home country, and the child is in a disadvantageous position to defend themselves,” Lindsay Toczylowski said. Toczylowski is the executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles.  

Little-Known Fact: Amidst the chaos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled that asylum seekers could no longer claim domestic or gang violence as a legitimate case for citizenship.  

“An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family, or other personal circumstances. Yet the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune,” Sessions wrote in his ruling.  

Sessions argued that since the violence was perpetrated by non-government officials, it was not a solid case for asylum. Under current legislation, one defining quality of a refugee is someone with “a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Sessions also denied “married women… who are unable to leave their relationship” as a valid social group protected under asylum law.

“I spoke to an asylum officer at the government agency that is involved in processing asylum claims. And this person said to me, 90 percent of the cases I get that I refer on to a judge as being legitimate claims... involve either domestic violence or gang violence as the grounds for someone seeking asylum,” Blitzer said.

Only 13 percent of all asylum seekers were granted citizenship in 2016, according to the Department of Homeland Security. That number is likely to go down in the aftermath of Sessions’ decision.

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