What has been the US Policy?
As part of its “zero-tolerance” approach to dealing with undocumented migrants, the Donald Trump administration in the U.S. has been separating parents and children within migrating families, leading to outrage over the burgeoning number of minors lodged in foster care.

What has been the impact?
Reports suggest that between October 2017 and May 2018 at least 1,995 children were separated from their parents, with a significant majority of the instances between April 18 and May 31. In recent weeks, disturbing images and videos have emerged of screaming toddlers in the custody of Customs and Border Protection personnel, or in what appear to be chain-link cages in facilities holding older children, as well as one disturbing audio allegedly of wailing children at one such unit.

What is the view of US legislators?
Democrats and Republicans alike have expressed deep concern about the ethics of using children, facing trauma from separation from their parents, to discourage further undocumented border crossings.

What is the view of President Trump?
Mr. Trump, however, has refused to accept sole responsibility for the family separations. Instead, he took to Twitter to blame his Democratic opponents for not working with Republicans to pass new immigration legislation to mitigate the border crisis.

How is the current policy legally justified?
Mr. Trump’s critics are correct in that there is no single U.S. law requiring families to be separated. Rather, what the White House referred to as “loopholes” in legislation are two legal provisions: a law against “improper entry by aliens” at the border, and a decree known as the Flores settlement. The first is a federal law that makes it impossible to summarily deport certain vulnerable categories of migrants, such as families, asylum-seekers and unaccompanied minors. To get around this the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama adopted the policy of “catch and release” — whereby these migrants would be released from custody pending their deportation case adjudication. Family separation was unnecessary at that time, but under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance approach, all undocumented migrants are charged in criminal courts. Here the Flores settlement applies, because it limits to 20 days the length of time migrant children may be held in immigration detention. While their parents face charges, the children are transferred to a different location, often with devastating consequences for their families. This is unspeakable cruelty.

(Adapted from The Hindu)