Fault Lines

No Shelter: Family Separation at the Border

Fault Lines investigates how the Trump administration is closing its doors to asylum seekers.

In May, the Trump administration announced a “zero tolerance” immigration policy, resulting in the separation of thousands of families who crossed the US border from Mexico – with no clear plan to reunite them. In hundreds of cases, parents were deported without their children; back to the same country and the same violence they were fleeing.

In Honduras, we tracked down two fathers who were deported without their children. They told us they were denied the right to claim asylum. 

Officially we don't live in an armed conflict, but we have the levels of violence of a country at war. People don't go to the US because they want to. They're looking to save their lives.

by Karla Rivas, Jesuit Migrant Network

Family separation is just one way the Trump administration is narrowing the path to asylum. It is also stationing border agents on bridges connecting the US and Mexico to turn asylum seekers away. In early August, on the bridge connecting Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, with El Paso, Texas, the team witnessed two teenage siblings from Guatemala being turned away and told there was no space for them as they tried to claim asylum. Half an hour later, as border agents noticed the crew filming, they allowed the siblings in.

Fault Lines also investigated alleged coercive tactics by immigration officials. Parents being held in New Mexico spoke exclusively to Fault Lines, saying that they were reunited with their children – only to be separated a few hours later by immigration officials. They said they were placed in detention again after they refused to sign a form that would have waived their children’s claim to asylum. “They were pressuring us,” a father said from detention.

As the Trump administration continues to pursue an immigration policy that makes it more difficult to claim asylum in the US, families impacted by “zero tolerance” are left to deal with the emotional trauma of their separation – and a loss of hope that they will be able to escape the violence they fled in the first place.