Zero Tolerance Immigration Policy is a Cruel and Immoral Human Rights Violation

(June 19, 2018)–Earlier this year, the Trump Administration implemented a new “zero-tolerance” policy to prosecute immigrants attempting entry into the United States. Part of this policy requires that children—including babies and toddlers—be separated from their parents; children are taken into temporary custody while their parents are jailed or deported. In many cases, neither party is informed of the whereabouts of the other—they are simply torn apart and taken to undisclosed locations.

This policy is utterly inhumane both for the immediate pain that it inflicts on the families and also for the long-term harm it will cause for the children. Research makes clear that the experiences of traumatic events—like being forcibly separated from your parent, thrown into a makeshift encampment, and given zero information about your situation or your family’s whereabouts—can have lifelong negative consequences.

This policy also directly contradicts decades of child welfare and child well-being research on the importance of keeping families together, as well as the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), the bipartisan overhaul of the child welfare system, signed into law earlier this year. A primary objective of FFPSA is to keep children with their families whenever safe and possible, and to limit the use of group homes or congregate care. In this legislation Congress explicitly affirmed once again the value of keeping families together. Those values are fundamental to what it means to be American and should extend to all children and families in the United States as a matter of basic human dignity.

“CSSP believes that children belong with their families. We know from mountains of evidence the lasting harm that is caused by taking a child from their parent,” said Frank Farrow, President, the Center for the Study of Social Policy. “To remove a child under circumstances any less serious than potential grievous injury to the child is morally wrong. These families are attempting to come to this country for sanctuary, safety, and support.  Removing their children, housing them in subpar conditions, and potentially creating lifelong physical and mental health consequences is a human rights violation for which this country should be deeply ashamed. As professionals, citizens, and parents, we must all take action to overturn this immoral policy and practice. ”

Early in his presidency, Donald Trump threatened the use of family separation at US borders as a deterrent to illegal immigration. Couched in language about “safety” and “protecting our borders,” what was once considered an unthinkable option is now active policy for this administration. CSSP rejects this and any other policy decision that so heartlessly overlooks the basic needs of children, youth, and families. We are deeply concerned about this discriminatory and damaging policy and urge the Trump Administration to stop using children as pawns in a larger xenophobic immigration agenda.

About the Center for the Study of Social Policy: The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) works to secure equal opportunities and better futures for all children and families, especially those most often left behind. Learn more at