AUWCL Professors Anita Sinha, Jayesh Rathod, and Cori Alonso-Yoder.
AUWCL Professors Anita Sinha, Jayesh Rathod, and Cori Alonso-Yoder.

AUWCL’s Economic Justice Program Hosts Panel on Immigrant Family Separation and Detention

June 25, 2018

On June 25, 2018 American University Washington College of Law’s Economic Justice Program hosted "Immigrant Family Separation and Family Detention," a panel discussion which focused on why immigrant families are coming to the U.S., why they have been separated, and what is being done to combat these separations.

The panel featured AUWCL Professors Anita Sinha and Jayesh Rathod, and Cori Alonso-Yoder, practitioner-in-residence of the Immigrant Justice Clinic. The panel was organized by Professor Ezra Rosser.

Many of these immigrants are coming into the country seeking asylum, the panel stressed, rather than pursuing financial or socio-economic stability as commonly believed.

“So many of the (asylum) claims that we’re seeing right now are for families that are fleeing violence related to societal and gang violence, widespread criminal activities within primarily the northern triangle in Central America – El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras,” Alonso-Yoder said.

As the Trump administration undercut the claims of asylum that families were previously able to make and the Zero Tolerance Policy was put in place, Alonso-Yoder said children were being separated from their parents after ultimately becoming unaccompanied, as their parents entered the system to be federally prosecuted.

“Certainly that law existed, as the Trump administration claims, prior to this policy,” she said. “But the Obama administration, and the prior administration, were much less heavy handed with dealing out prosecution.”

Rathod said the executive order signed by President Trump following public outrage over the family separations does not call for a stop to detaining families, but does state children will no longer be separated from parents baring circumstances that would pose a threat to the child.

Since the policy took effect last October, until the end of May, 2,700 immigrant children were separated from their families, according to Rathod.

Sinha said it’s important to recognize what is happening on the local, state, and national level to fight this ongoing issue.

“At least one petition currently has been filed, and at least one other is being drafted, before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, (which) are arguing that the family separation policy violates the American Declaration of Human Rights, which is the treaty the commission operates on,” Sinha said.

Watch the full panel discussion here.