To: Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

Tell Secretary Nielsen: Stop separating families!

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, abandon the cruel, costly, and unjustified practice of separating families seeking protection at our borders, including those who are fleeing persecution in their home countries. Children belong with their parents in safe communities, not locked up in detention centers.

Why is this important?

“I just want to know where my daughter is and that she is safe. She’s two years old, and it’s been two months since we were separated—I don’t know why we were separated. I don’t understand. We came here to seek help, we were afraid for our lives.”
-Father, seeking asylum and being held in an adult immigration detention center at the U.S. southern border in August 2017. Described as “very depressed” due to the separation by his housing mates to WRC.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under Secretary Nielsen’s leadership has been tearing children apart from their parents to scare others from coming to our borders.

There’s no justification for this practice. These families and children aren’t threats to our safety. They’re often fleeing unspeakable violence and persecution in their home countries. Many are from Central America, home to some of the most dangerous countries in the world.

The administration has claimed that they must separate children from their parents to protect them. But policies exist for protecting children—and separating them from their parents is not the way. There’s no security crisis either. Border apprehensions are at decades-low levels, according to the government’s own data.

It’s cruel to punish parents who are doing everything they can to protect their children and to punish children by depriving them of their parents. Separating a child from a mother or father only leads to more trauma for all. Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare.

DHS shouldn’t play politics with families to try to discourage people from seeking protection, and there’s no legal basis for doing so either. Family unity is one of our core values and is reflected in our laws. Our government has a responsibility under U.S. immigration law to hear a person’s immigration or asylum case, not to try to scare them away from asking for help. Doing so puts these families at extremely high risk of experiencing further rights violations.

Separating families is also expensive. By some estimates, the government practice of detaining mothers and children apart from each other would cost taxpayers an average of $327 million per year. And keeping families locked up together is also expensive and cruel, when there are cost efficient and effective alternatives to detention. That money won’t make our country safer; it would only waste taxpayer dollars.

Separating families or keeping them locked up in detention is NOT a solution. It won’t make us safer or stop people from seeking protection when they have no other option. It’s not who we are.

Sign this petition to tell Secretary Nielsen to stop separating families at the border once and for all. Children belong with their parents in safe communities, not locked up in detention centers. We are better than this.

This petition is sponsored by Al Otro Lado, Alianza Americas, Amnesty International USA, Kids in Need of Defense, Latin America Working Group, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, MomsRising, National Immigrant Justice Center, Women’s Refugee Commission