Yesterday, I sat down with Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Director of Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, to discuss the current state of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, how it differs from the Obama administration’s, and where we can go from here. The conversation took place in my campaign’s new State College office, and we were joined by over 60 members of the community who wanted to participate in a fact-based conversation. This event will be followed by my campaign’s Immigration Town Hall with Vice Admiral Joe Sestak, which will be held on Saturday, June 30 at 4p at The State Theatre, 130 W. College Avenue in State College; all are welcome and encouraged to attend.
In April, President Trump and Jeff Sessions implemented a new “zero-tolerance” policy towards certain border crossings, mandating that those asylum claims not occuring legally at designated ports of entry be criminally prosecuted as misdemeanors, thus requiring by law that any children be separated from their parents during the process. After this change, over 2,000 families were separated, with the children placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services and unaware if they will ever be reunited with their parents.
Professor Wadhia clarified that this administration’s policy, which mostly punishes Central American families desperately fleeing violence, is distinct from that of the Obama administration. Although border apprehensions and family detention had been a priority under President Obama, the use of criminal prosecutions and separations, coated in hateful and fear-mongering anti-immigrant rhetoric, is distinctly new. All of this underscores that this crisis, which is not only violating basic human rights and decency but also tarnishing the U.S.’s image around the world, is one that the Trump administration chose to start.
President Trump signed an executive order last Wednesday that was meant to make a re-commitment to keeping families together, while still doubling-down on the “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all cases, although Professor Wadhia wasn’t sure if this was actually being implemented on the ground.
Professor Wadhia’s Center has done outstanding work producing documents meant to educate the general public, including “Family Separation Policy: What You Need to Know” and “Executive Order on Family Detention: What You Need to Know.” If you would like to receive email updates from Professor Wadhia as more information becomes available, please join her email list by writing to her at email@example.com.
If you would like to help support pro bono immigration legal services for people who are affected, Professor Wadhia recommends ALDEA PJC.
I want to thank Professor Wadhia, everyone who attended the briefing, and especially the staff and volunteers who helped plan and organize the event. The information will help us in advocating for a federal immigration policy that respects basic decency, and reflects the basic values America strives to represent. That starts by fighting for positive change in the 12th District.