Hundreds of migrant children and parents have been separated at the US Mexico border, despite a judge ruling that the policy should stop last summer.
At least 911 families were separated by Donald Trump’s border regime since June 2018, according to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Its publication came a year after district court judge Dana Sabraw ordered the reunification of over 2,700 migrant children and parents. He ruled that separation could only happen in “limited circumstances”.
The ACLU report found that many of the 911 cases did not meet these requirements. ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said that border police were exploiting “what was supposed to be a narrow exception for cases where the parent was genuinely a danger to the child”.
“They are using it as a loophole to continue family separation,” he said.
The “limited circumstances” include criminal conduct. Some 678 of the 911 separations were due to alleged criminal activity, while the causes for the other cases are unknown.
Yet in many cases separation was imposed for minor offences, and in others the parents were not convicted of any crime. Two of the most shocking cases involved a father who was HIV positive and a mother who required surgery for a broken leg.
One case that was claimed to meet the requirement involved the theft of £4. Another saw a father separated from his daughter after a border patrol agent told him that he had forgotten to change her nappy.
The number of children being separated from their families have dramatically decreased since Trump signed an executive order to roll back the policy in 2018. But his administration is still overseeing the breakup of migrant families under the pretence of child protection.
It is clear that the separations have no benefit for the children who are taken away, with medical professionals warning that they will cause irreversible emotional damage.
One in five of the children separated in the last year are under five.
And the reunification of over 2,700 children with their families is a long process that could never be completed.
The report came days after Trump signed a deal with Guatemala. The deal means that South American refugees passing through the country, which is on Mexico’s southern border, must seek asylum there.
Guatemala, which is ruled by a right wing party set up by former generals and torturers, is no safe place for migrants. And the deal will see more migrants turned away at the US border, creating an even deeper crisis for people fleeing in search of a better life.