AILA Public Statements, Press Releases, Advocacy & Media

AILA: Expanding Family Detention Is Not the Answer to Cruel Family Separation Policy

6/20/18 AILA Doc. No. 18062036. Admissions & Border, Asylum, Detention & Bond, Removal & Relief
George Tzamaras
Belle Woods


Wednesday, June 20, 2018


Washington, DC - Today, President Trump signed an Executive Order, which purports to end the separation of asylum-seeking families by expanding the use of family detention, while reaffirming his commitment to a "zero tolerance" policy of border prosecutions, even for those who lawfully claim a fear of persecution and are entitled to seek asylum in the United States. Anastasia Tonello, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) responded:

"For years, AILA and our partners, joined by champions in Congress, have spoken out against the inhumane practice of detaining families seeking asylum, first under the Obama administration and now under the Trump administration. The detention of families - parents and children - who pose no flight risk or danger to the community is simply unacceptable, abrogates our international responsibilities to refugees, and goes against our country's most fundamental values. Hundreds of AILA attorneys have fought for the children and parents who have been detained after tumultuous escapes from violence and certain death in their home countries. They've seen the worry in a mother's eyes as her child's weight dwindles due to stress, fear, and inadequate medical care, the concern of a father trapped behind a fence, under 24-hour surveillance. We need to embrace our legacy as a safe haven for the persecuted and stop subjecting bona fide refugees to further trauma by locking them up while they pursue their lawful claims to relief.

"Now, as the president attempts to sidestep the family separation crisis of his own making, our country faces another choice: whether to stand idly by as billions of taxpayer dollars are spent to establish new facilities to detain children and parents, inflicting further damage on already fragile human beings, or to stand firm against this appalling practice and the unnecessary 'zero tolerance' policy, which is a wasteful misdirection of prosecutorial resources and was the catalyst for the family separation crisis to begin with. The choice is not to either separate children from their families or jail them all.

"Incarceration of families for prolonged periods of time is senseless, particularly when humane and cost-effective alternatives to detention have been proven to be effective. The barriers to due process that AILA attorneys have encountered at every detention facility only underscore what needs to happen: both family separation and family detention must end."


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

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  • I agree with @AILANational, expanding family detention is not the answer to cruel family separation policy #EndFamilyDetention
  • It is unconscionable that the administration is pushing family detention as a some sort of humane alternative to the crisis they caused at the border.
  • As we have said for years, #EndFamilyDetention and focus on cost-effective and human alternatives that don't destroy our nation's integrity.