The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

As long as ICE exists, families will never be safe

Getty Images

Family separation is not new for the United States. Each year, thousands of immigrants are detained for prolonged periods of time as part of our nation’s inhumane, ineffective, and unduly costly immigration system. However, the Trump administration’s unprecedented “zero tolerance” policy turned family separation into a humanitarian crisis. This cruel policy meant children as young as five months old were ripped from their parents, without any idea when they might be reunited.

Recently, the administration said that 2,342 children have been separated from their parents since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy, at a rate of about 65 children a day. But even before Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, children were being separated from their families. 

{mosads}New reports indicate that over 4,000 children have been separated from their parents since October 2016. This is in addition to those parents separated from their children by interior enforcement within the U.S., outside of border regions. Families that are separated are often unable to find each other, speak, or be reunited; some have even been tragically deported without each other.


Recently, Sessions directed immigration judges to circumvent current laws and deny asylum to those claiming they fear domestic violence, gang violence, and violence due to a person’s LGBTQ identity.

The Trump administration is doubling down on this, and just two weeks ago, a Vox article exposed a leaked proposed draft regulation that will solidify Session’s directive as an official agency rule that will effectively change the way the administration implements asylum laws. What’s worse is that the parents incarcerated due to this policy will be facing up to 20 years in prison for the crime of “illegal entry” or “reentry,” and will remain in prison and be eventually subjected to deportation.

As long as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is free to operate under the assumption that immigrant detention is ever appropriate, or necessary, children will be separated from their parents, and families will continue to be torn apart.

Detaining families together is not more humane than family separation since it is still in essence a prison sentence. Being detained by ICE means being vulnerable to myriad possble alleged abuses. Since Trump was inaugurated, 15 people have died in immigration custody, and most can be attributed to medical negligence.

One of those people was Marco Antonio Muñoz, an asylum seeker who committed suicide in detention after being separated from his children and family. Another tragic loss included Roxana Hernández, a transgender woman who was fleeing violence and persecution from her native Honduras. She died from HIV-related health complications after being cruelly placed in the notoriously frigid ICE detention facilities known as the “ice box.”

Family detention is a punishment, and a complete violation of the tenets of reproductive justice. If we want to do better for children and their parents, ICE must be defunded and completely abolished. It is time for Congress to demand an end to ICE, and defund the federal agencies that are conducting these sweeping violations on our community.

In the United States, all children should be able to enjoy a safe childhood surrounded by joy and love, not trapped in detention without the vital forms of nurture from loved ones that all children need to thrive. All families, including immigrant families, would be free to make decisions about their bodies, sexuality, and health with dignity and self-determination. These United States will never exist while ICE continues to exist. I stand hand in hand with advocates across the country in calling for the abolishment of ICE and CBP to ensure that no person or family endures the toll of indefinite family detention and separation ever again.

Jessica González-Rojas is executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

Tags family detention family separation Immigration Jeff Sessions

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More Immigration News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video