WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, on behalf of immigrant advocacy and legal organizations, Democracy Forward petitioned the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to retract and correct false statements claiming the Trump Administration did not implement a policy of forced family separation along the Southwest Border. The groups are challenging the intentionally inaccurate claims under the Information Quality Act (“IQA”), a law requiring federal agencies to disseminate accurate and reliable information to the public.
The groups include Americans for Immigrant Justice, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and Muslim Advocates.
“The Administration’s attempts to misdirect the public from the true purpose and nature of the zero tolerance policy are shameful,” said Manoj Govindaiah, RAICES Director of Family Detention Services. “It is in all facets a family separation policy that is specifically meant to deter asylum seekers from pursuing their claims in the United States. This policy violates U.S. and international law and we call on the Administration to be transparent with the American people to acknowledge what this really is.”
On April 6, 2018, the Trump Administration adopted a policy of criminally prosecuting every undocumented individual who entered the United States through the Southwest Border, including those seeking asylum. Where the apprehended individual was a parent traveling with a child, it was DHS policy to separate the family–forcefully in some cases–so that the parent and child could be detained separately.
The same day audio reports were released of separated children crying in detention centers, DHS embarked on a misinformation campaign to mislead the public about the existence of its separation policy. As part of this effort, DHS issued a “Myth vs. Fact Sheet” which characterizes as “myth” that “DHS has a policy to separate families at the border,” and falsely represents as “fact” that “DHS does not have a blanket policy of separating families at the border.”
According to the Administration’s own data, between April 19 and May 31, nearly 2,000 children were separated from their parents due to President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy.
“The Trump Administration tried to hide the truth to deflect the outpouring of moral outrage at the Administration’s own policy of separating kids from their parents,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “Secretary Nielsen put DHS front and center in the Administration’s unlawful disinformation campaign.”
“It is hard enough in this chaotic and difficult time to protect the rights of immigrants, said Americans for Immigrant Justice Senior Litigation Attorney Lisa Lehner. “But, to have to deal with misleading, conflicting information from DHS makes our job representing immigrant families seeking refuge even more difficult.”
“The administration’s heartless policies are ripping families apart and causing immeasurable harm to countless individuals, said Muslim Advocates Senior Attorney Sirine Shebaya. “The fact that the government is putting out false and misleading information to justify its actions is unconscionable; they need to be held accountable.”
The letter was submitted on June 28, 2018. Under DHS’s IQA guidelines, the agency has 60 days to respond in writing to the request for correction.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.
Americans for Immigrant Justice is a non-profit law firm dedicated to promoting and protecting the basic rights of immigrants. AI Justice has served over 120,000 immigrant clients since its inception and is currently representing children who were separated from their parents.
Muslim Advocates is a nonprofit civil rights organization that promotes freedom and justice for people of all faiths.
RAICES is a nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees in Texas.