Attorney General Sessions Announces Policy to Prosecute Parents and Forcibly Separate their Children


On May 7th, Attorney General Sessions announced a new policy to criminally prosecute anyone who comes to the border and separate them from their children. The parents will be placed in federal criminal custody, and their children sent to immigration facilities around the country. The stated reason, to deter other families from seeking protection in the U.S. The Young Center is appointed as Child Advocate for these children. They are extremely traumatized. We have seen a 5-year-old stop speaking, a 6-year-old suffer panic attacks, and many young children who won't eat, can't sleep and suffer from nightmares. Tearing children away from their parents in this manner, and for this reason, is unconscionable and violates basic legal principles.

With your support Young Center Child Advocates fight for their right to be cared for by their parents. Here's what we do:

  • We submit best interests briefs to the government arguing that children be reunified with their parents. From the moment we're appointed we fight for each child's right to be cared for by his or her parent, for the child's long-term safety.
  • We locate the children’s parents in ICE detention facilities. It’s shocking, but children don’t know where their parents are. Parents don’t know where their children are. This causes tremendous stress and anxiety. Young Center Child Advocates spend hours tracking down information to locate the parents who are detained in any of the dozens of adult immigration jails holding more than 35,000 immigrant adults.
  • We convince the adult immigration jails to allow calls between the children and their parents. Every detention center is different (some are run by the government, many are run by private, for-profit companies). Many detention facilities are resistant to allowing contact between parents and their children. Once we locate the parents, we advocate—we request, we cajole, we argue with the detention facilities to allow calls between children and their parents. 
  • We advocate for children’s release to other family members. Some children have aunts, grandparents or older siblings who can care for them. If a child can’t be immediately reunified with a parent (many parents are deported immediately, long before we find them; other parents will spend months in adult immigration detention before a judge grants their release), we support the child’s efforts to be released from government custody to a family member. As Child Advocate we ensure children are safely released from custody as soon as possible.
  • We help parents find immigration attorneys. Without an attorney it is nearly impossible for a detained parent to get released or win their case. We do everything possible to ensure the parent has legal representation. When the parent must go to court without a lawyer, we alert the immigration judge to the fact that they have a child who’s been taken away—otherwise the judge might never know.
  • In cases in which the parent has been deported we continue to advocate that the child be safely reunified. In the worst cases, parents are deported while their children are still in U.S. custody. We locate the parents, arrange for the children to speak to them. We find out what the parent wants, and what the child wants. Our goal is to see the children safely reunified with their parents.
  • Child Advocates are assigned to separated children because you provide support. They visit the children once a week, spending time, listening, learning their stories, learning what they want. We are there for these kids at a most difficult time, when they’re all alone. And our appointment continues until the children are safely reunified with their parents.

Thank you for your support which makes it possible to be there for these kids, to fight for their right to be with their parents, for their right to be safe.


Maddie Witters