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28th November 2017, 12:18:57 UTC

US border agency officials forcibly separated four Central American asylum-seeking fathers from their children after their arrival to the US, in violation of US standards on family unity during immigration detention.

Between 10 and 13 November, four Central American fathers and their children crossed into the United States from Mexico, seeking asylum from death threats and violence.

Eric Edgardo M. C. and his son Roger (3) are from Honduras, and three families are from El Salvador: Jose D. F. and his son Mateo (1); Carlos B. A. and his son Dominic (12); and Walter R. A. and his daughter Melissa (5).

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used intimidation tactics to coerce the fathers to give up their children to shelters. ICE denied their requests to use a phone, said their asylum claims would be compromised, and demanded the children be given up to prevent their being taken by force. All four fathers were transferred to an ICE detention centre, where they remain.

None of the fathers gave formal consent to be separated from their children, and ICE declined to inform them where their children were, offering only a hotline for the Office of Refugee Resettlement to seek information. Their wellbeing has been negatively impacted by the severe stress of not knowing where their children were or what their status is.

Border officials violated national immigration detention standards by failing to prioritise and facilitate family unity in these cases. The separation of families seeking asylum is cruel and creates an unnecessary deterrence for often-traumatised asylum seekers arriving to the US after fleeing violence or persecution.

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