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"Reporters and Others" Are "Misleading" the Public about Children being Separated from Their Parents at the Border; Here are the Facts DHS Wants Americans to Know

Kirstjen M. Nielsen : Jun 19, 2018 : DHS.gov

"From October 2017 to this February, we have seen a staggering 315 percent increase in illegal aliens fraudulently using children to pose as family units to gain entry into this country. This must stop. All this does is put the children at risk. To address these issues we've asked Congress to change the law to allow for the expeditious return of unaccompanied children, regardless of their country of origin. We are also asking Congress to allow us to keep families together while they are detained." -Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen

(Washington, DC)—[DHS.gov] In recent days, we have seen reporters, Members of Congress, and other groups mislead the public on the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) zero-tolerance policy. (Photo: Border Patrol/via Cronkitenews.asu.edu)

Federal law enforcement officers have sworn duties to enforce the laws that Congress passes.  Repeating intentionally untrue and unsubstantiated statements about DHS agents, officers, and procedures is irresponsible and deeply disrespectful to the men and women who risk their lives every day to secure our border and enforce our laws.

Myth

DHS has a policy to separate families at the border. 

Fact

DHS does not have a blanket policy of separating families at the border.   However, DHS does have a responsibility to protect all minors in our custody.  This means DHS will separate adults and minors under certain circumstances.  These circumstances include: 1) when DHS is unable to determine the familial relationship, 2) when DHS determines that a child may be at risk with the parent or legal guardian, or 3) when the parent or legal guardian is referred for criminal prosecution. 

Familial Relationship—If there is reason to question the claimed familial relationship between an adult and child, it is not appropriate to detain adults and children together.

Human Trafficking and Smuggling—If there is reason to suspect the purported parent or legal guardian of human trafficking or smuggling, DHS detains the adult in an appropriate, secure detection facility, separate from the minor.  DHS continues to see instances and intelligence reports indicating minors are trafficked by unrelated adults, posing as a "family" in an effort to avoid detention.

Safety Risk—If there is reason to suspect the purported parent or legal guardian poses a safety risk to the child (e.g. suspected child abuse), it is not appropriate to maintain the adult and child together.

Criminal Prosecution—If an adult is referred for criminal prosecution, the adult will be transferred to U.S. Marshals Service custody and any children will be classified as an unaccompanied alien child and transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services custody.

In recent months, DHS has seen a staggering increase in the number of illegal aliens using children to pose as family units to gain entry into the United States. From October 2017 to February 2018, there was a 315 percent increase in the number of cases of adults with minors fraudulently posing as "family units" to gain entry.

Myth

Prior to April 2017, DHS never separated families arriving at the border.  

Fact

DHS has separated families under the circumstances described above.  Because of court decisions, DHS can generally no longer hold families in detention beyond 20 days.  

Myth

DHS can indefinitely detain families who cross the border illegally. 

Fact

DHS generally releases families within 20 days.  This creates a "get out of jail free" card for illegal alien families and encourages groups of illegal aliens to pose as families hoping to take advantage of that loophole.

In 2014, DHS increased detention facilities for arriving alien families and held families pending the outcome of immigration proceedings.  However, a federal judge ruled in 2015 that under the Flores Settlement Agreement, minors detained as part of a family unit cannot be detained in unlicensed facilities for longer than a presumptively reasonable period of 20 days, at which point, such minors must be released or transferred to a licensed facility.  Because most jurisdictions do not offer licensure for family residential centers, DHS rarely holds family units for longer than 20 days.  The judge's ruling made it much more difficult for the Federal government to use the detention authorities Congress gave it.

Myth

DHS is referring for prosecution all families coming to the border.

Fact

DHS only refers to the Department of Justice those adults who violate the law by crossing the border illegally (or who have violated some other criminal law) and are amenable for prosecution.  When adults, with or without children, unlawfully enter this country, there must be a consequence for breaking our laws. 

DHS is not referring for prosecutions families or individuals arriving at ports of entry or attempting to enter the country through legal means.  These families and individuals have not broken the law and will be processed accordingly. 

Myth

DHS is turning away asylum seekers at ports of entry.

Fact

DHS complies with Federal law with regard to processing individuals claiming asylum at ports of entry. 

CBP processes all aliens arriving at all ports of entry without documents as expeditiously as possible without negatively affecting the agency's primary mission to protect the American public from dangerous people and materials while enhancing the nation's economic competitiveness through facilitating legitimate trade and travel.

As the number of arriving aliens determined to be inadmissible at ports of entry continues to rise, CBP must prioritize its limited resources to ensure its primary mission is being executed.  Depending on port circumstances at the time of arrival, CBP officials will allocate the necessary resources to its primary mission and operate appropriate access controls and queue management procedures for those arriving aliens without proper travel documents.     

Myth

DHS separates families who entered at the ports of entry and who are seeking asylum—even though they have not broken the law. 

Fact

If an adult enters at a port of entry and claims asylum, they will not face prosecution for illegal entry. DHS does have a responsibility to protect minors we apprehend and will separate in three circumstances:1) when DHS is unable to determine the familial relationship, 2) when DHS determines that a child may be at risk with the parent or legal guardian, or 3) when the parent or legal guardian is referred for criminal prosecution. 

Myth

Once separated, arriving alien adults cannot contact minors and are not told where the minors are being held by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).   

Fact

DHS is committed to and has procedures in place to connect family members after separation so adults know the location of minors and have regular communication with them.

HHS and DHS work to facilitate communication between detained adults and minors (in HHS custody) in a number of ways to include telephone and/or video conferencing.  Additionally, ICE has posted information in all over 72-hour facilities advising detained adults who are trying to locate, and/or communicate with a child in the custody of HHS to call the Detention Reporting and Information Line (DRIL) for assistance.  This posted information includes...

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