Following outrage that border officials separated a mother from her child with Down syndrome, U.S. officials set the record straight by stating Wednesday that the family was separated because the mother might be a criminal smuggler.
“This smuggler has a criminal history including a flight, escape, aiding and abetting making it important that we prosecute,” the Customs and Border Patrol statement reads. Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Videgaray Caso raised questions at a news conference Tuesday, pointing to the grave mistreatment that families must endure because of the federal government’s zero-tolerance policy. The family was not separated because the mother entered the U.S. illegally, but because she serves as a “material witness” in a smuggling case, the Dallas News reported.
Federal law indicates that there is a zero-tolerance policy concerning immigrants who illegally cross the border, meaning that there is no guarantee families will be kept together while they are detained before being granted asylum or being deported. A family can be separated if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cannot determine whether a familial relationship exists, the parent or legal guardian presents a risk to the child, or the parent or legal guardian is referred for criminal prosecution.
The border patrol statement comes after people have been clamoring over pictures of children in holdings cells and audio of kids weeping as they’re torn from their parents being circulating throughout the news. The pictures that have been circulated showing children in cage-like enclosures are of a processing center in McAllen, Texas. The children stay there for 12 to 36 hours before immigration officials process them and transfer them to shelters. (RELATED: Here Are The Photos Of Obama’s Illegal Immigrant Detention Facilities The Media Won’t Show You)
A number of reports and videos show children at the centers sleeping in clean beds, receiving food and water and even playing soccer at fields set up for the kids. Casa Padre shelter in Brownsville, Texas, gives children three meals a day and two snacks along with access to video games, pool tables and English classes, according to ABC News.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to keep families together. Trump vowed to still keep America’s borders strong so that illegal immigrants do not overrun the country.