Migrant children, border security, family separation, illegal immigration | Homeland Security Newswire

Migrant childrenImmigrant infants too young to talk called into court to defend themselves

By Christina Jewett and Shefali Luthra

Published 20 July 2018

The Trump administration has summoned at least seventy infants to immigration court for their own deportation proceedings since 1 October 2017, according to Justice Department data. These are children who are unable to speak and still learning when it’s day versus night. The number of infants under age 1 involved has been rising — up threefold from 24 infants in the fiscal year that ended last 30 September, and 46 infants the year before.

The Trump administration has summoned at least seventy infants to immigration court for their own deportation proceedings since 1 October 2017, according to Justice Department data provided to Kaiser Health News.

These are children who need frequent touching and bonding with a parent and naps every few hours, and some were of breastfeeding age, medical experts say. They’re unable to speak and still learning when it’s day versus night.

“For babies, the basics are really important. It’s the holding, the proper feeding, proper nurturing,” said Shadi Houshyar, who directs early childhood and child welfare initiatives at the advocacy group Families USA.

The number of infants under age 1 involved has been rising — up threefold from 24 infants in the fiscal year that ended last 30 September, and 46 infants the year before.

The Justice Department data show that a total of 1,500 “unaccompanied” children, from newborns to age 3, have been called in to immigration court since 1 October 2015.

Roughly three-fourths of the children involved are represented by a lawyer and they have to make their case that they should stay in the United States.

Officials who review such deportation cases say most children under 1 cross the border with a parent and their deportation cases proceed together.

But some of the infants were deemed “unaccompanied” only after law enforcement separated them from their parents during the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. The children were sent to facilities across the U.S. under the supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“This is to some extent a … crisis of the creation of the government,” said Robert Carey, who previously headed the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which takes custody of unaccompanied minors. “It’s a tragic and ironic turn of events.”

Younger children are also considered unaccompanied if they enter the United States with an older family member who is not yet 18. The data do not clarify which children arrived that way or which were separated from their parents.