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Family Separation

We’re fighting to reunite families who remain separated to this day and hold the government accountable for those who suffered.

Beginning in 2017, the Trump administration began separating families at the border, taking children away from their parents without any plan to reunite – or even track – the families it broke apart. Parents and children, including toddlers, went weeks or months without any contact or word of each other’s well-being. Hundreds of parents were deported without their children, not knowing whether they would ever see them again. An untold number of children were subjected to a range of physical, sexual and psychological abuses while in government custody.

Although the full number of children separated from their parents is yet unknown, it is likely to be well over 3,000. While most families were reunited following a federal court order in June 2018, some remain separated to this day. What’s more, the Trump administration has continued the practice. Immigration officials are taking children for wholly unjustified reasons and scattering them among a network of facilities run by private contractors under the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), while their parents are locked up in rural, isolated ICE facilities. 

There is substantial evidence that government officials knew separating families would inflict long-term, irreparable harm on the physical and mental health of children and their parents. Yet officials at the highest levels of the Trump administration embraced this cruel practice in the name of deterring further migration to the United States.

The children and parents separated at the border will live with the trauma of their experience for the rest of their lives.

We’re demanding accountability from the Trump administration. In 2020, we sued the Trump administration over this policy that has separated and traumatized thousands of migrant families. You can read more about the federal lawsuit we filed with the Covington & Burling and Coppersmith Brockelman law firms here.

Also, with our partners at the law firm Covington and Burling, we have filed seven administrative claims for families separated at the border in 2017 and 2018:

The SPLC is committed to upholding the rights of separated parents and their children, including those who remain apart and others whose emotional scars will never fully heal.

View the timeline of family separation under the Trump administration.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images