Statement on Family Separation and Detention

21 June 2018

Over the past 10 years, the Osborne Association’s New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents (NYCIP) has brought together government agencies, and community and faith-based organizations to develop solutions to address the harms of parent-child separation that result from a parent’s arrest and incarceration. For decades, we have offered programs that maintain the parent-child bond during incarceration, and we have brought hundreds of children to visit their incarcerated parents. As an 85-year-old organization, we are deeply aware of the damaging effects of separation on children, we are horrified by the current DOJ policy of taking children from their parents at the US border and we join those calling for the immediate end of this unconscionable practice. The President’s recent Executive Order is a start but is not enough. The more than 2,000 children currently suffering from being separated need to be urgently reunited with their parents and a standing solution and firm, unequivocal commitment to keeping families together is needed. 

Children are often said to bear the unintended “collateral consequences” of our justice system’s policies. This is bad enough, but starting with an explicit, intentional policy of separating children and parents harkens back to the shameful days of slavery. It also violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child—ratified by every country except the US and Somalia; once again putting the US at odds with the agreed values of our international allies and every democracy in the world. Many families cross US borders seeking asylum from dangers and trauma in their homelands now only to be met with an official government policy—from the world’s proclaimed leader of freedom and democracy—of traumatizing children. The current administration states that this policy will keep our country safer, but there is no justification for this inhumane and barbaric practice. No good can result from our inflicting such pain on others, especially innocent and vulnerable children who have nothing but their parents as they cross the border. 

The parent-child relationship is urgently and critically important—we have only to think of our own children and our own childhoods. Research finds tremendous and often lifelong negative effects can result from separating children from a parent. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against such separation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes parent-child separation among its Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) which can have negative consequences for health and wellbeing into adulthood. 

This policy must cease immediately and children must be expeditiously reunited with their parents and provided with post-trauma supports immediately after reunification. It is needlessly cruel, immoral, and of dubious public safety benefit to treat anyone in this manner, much less to do this to children. Children need and love their parents. Families should be kept together no matter their immigration status, the outcome of an asylum hearing, or their ultimate ability to remain in the United States.