PRESS RELEASE: One Year After Zero Tolerance, Families Are Still Being Separated at Our Border
For Immediate Release:
April 5, 2019
BALTIMORE—One year ago, on April 6, the Administration passed the zero-tolerance policy, ushering in a wave of family separation that shattered the lives of thousands of children and parents at our border.
LIRS (Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service) was one of just two partners on the ground offering support to the government during the process of family reunification—and the experience of supporting recently reunified children and families has been forever imprinted on the hearts and minds of those involved.
“As a mother of a one-year old girl, I’m horrified that we inflicted such cruel and callous punishment on children and families at our border,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of LIRS. “As a national organization that has worked along our border and on immigration for eight decades, we will continue to champion the core American value that children and families at our border must be protected, regardless of skin color, country of origin, or circumstance. Family separation wasn’t acceptable then, and it still isn’t today.”
In fact, while the zero-tolerance policy has been reversed and public outrage has faded, LIRS is still seeing heartbreaking evidence of family separation among the children we serve.
Over the last few months, we’ve documented at least 10 cases of family separation—including the separation of an eight-month-old child from his mother, and the majority of whom were under the age of nine. LIRS was deeply disturbed by these cases and has worked diligently to ensure the reunification each child with a caregiver or parent.
Presently, LIRS’s partners are responding to an evolving humanitarian crisis at the border. ICE is releasing families by the hundreds each day—leaving them stranded at bus stations with no food, no money, and no support system—and LIRS is working with local communities to provide emergency support and safe-haven to vulnerable children and families in Phoenix, Yuma, Albuquerque, and El Paso.
“We will continue to fight for just treatment of families, whether they’re being separated, detained, or forced to sleep on concrete sidewalks under an overpass,” said Vignarajah. “Because that’s what America is supposed to be about: protecting those who are vulnerable and offering safe haven to those seeking refuge.”
Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States, and only one of two agencies called upon by the U.S. government to help reunite children with parents after family separations. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.