Families Separated at the Border


Last week, we discussed the announcement by the United Nations regarding the Trump administration policy of separating asylum-seeking families at the US border. At that time, the UN had recently called out the practice as a violation of human rights, and an already-high profile and much-discussed situation has received a growing level of attention during the intervening week.

The elements of the policy are reviewed in detail by Vox, here in a helpful breakdown that discusses the realities of the situation and dispels some false narratives before they take root.  

But many of us still have questions about the policy, the practice, its execution, and what we can personally do to take action on behalf of those who have been harmed by these events. Here’s a quick set of questions and answers that may be helpful.

Are children really being pulled from the arms of their asylum-seeking parents at the border? Or is this an exaggeration of real events or a burst of new attention being focused on a long-standing practice?

Yes, children are being separated from their parents. And yes, this form of enforcement has arrived with the Trump administration and is part of a newly established “zero-tolerance” mandate explained in the link above. It is actually happening, and it wasn’t happening before October of 2017. Many of those who have been separated from their children are forthright asylum seekers who have committed no crimes and broken no laws.

I have a specific question. How can I get to the source?

Contact the Us Department of Health and Human Services (https://www.hhs.gov/), which runs the Administration for Children and Families (https://www.acf.hhs.gov/), which manages the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

I want to help these children directly. I am a lawyer/journalist/prospective foster parent/non-profit organization/community leader/ etc. What do I do?

If you are a lawyer or if you wish to donate to groups providing direct aid to separated families, please click here for a list of organizations that need your help.

(This excellent article is regularly updated with new groups and new actions, so check back in again later.)

To reach the “Unaccompanied Alien Children’s Services” program within the ORR, contact the ORR main office by calling here: 202-401-9246.

If you speak fluent Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’ AND have a paralegal background, contact the Texas Civil Rights Project here. www.texascivilrightsproject.org.

All I can do is donate. Where do I go?

The Slate article above lists several organizations that can help, but you can start here with the Texas Civil Rights Project https://texascivilrightsproject.org/ and the ACLU.

Meanwhile, check in with Just Atonement and join our efforts to take a legal stand on behalf of those who are harmed by policies and corporate actions that benefit institutions and the wealthy at the expense of the most vulnerable among us. 

One Year into the Administration: The Status of Refugee Resettlement

The “right of asylum” is a concept that long predates the establishment of the United States, and it suggests that a person who is unjustly persecuted by authorities in their own country can and should find refuge within another sovereign nation and should be protected by that nation’s sovereign authority. The concept can be traced through ancient Greek and Hebrew texts and it formed the basis for the medieval idea of “sanctuary”, by which accused criminals could seek refuge within the walls of the church.  

In 1980, this concept led to the passage of the United States Refugee Act and the creation of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which lies within the Administration for Children and Families, which in turn lies within the Department of Health and Human Services. Since its establishment, the ORR has provided support for refugees arriving in the US as a result of human trafficking, torture, war, and the separation of children from their refugee families.

Since 1980, about three million refugees have been resettled with help and assistance from the program, establishing a pillar of meaningful action beneath one of the enshrined values of the United States. The number of refugees admitted to the country has fluctuated vastly each year since that time, often in accordance with the political climate and the nature of the party in power, but at this point, the program appears to be in real jeopardy.


We found this short (4:15) segment produced by NPR, which summarizes the impact of the current administration on the state of the Refugee Resettlement Program. Here’s a spoiler: The outlook is troubling, but the factors involved in the efforts to undermine the program are relatively simple, and are focused around an effort to appeal to a republican political base by adopting a stand against all forms of immigration, legal and illegal. We don’t know what the year ahead will bring for the ORR, but we recognize the current pressures placed on the program and are paying attention to their impact.

To learn more about the formation of this program and its potential future, please contact our team.