On July 25th, Border Patrol Chief Brian Hastings testified before the House Judiciary Committee about the policies and procedures of the Border Patrol (“BP”) along the border between the US and Mexico. During his testimony, Chief Hastings revealed a lot about what is occurring to children who are detained. When asked if a three-year old little girl could be classified as a “criminal or national security threat,” his response was that he “did not know the background of the case.” The fact that he would ever consider a toddler a criminal or national security threat speaks volumes about the paranoid frame of mind of the current administration. Based on that paranoia, Chief Hastings revealed that there was no process to reunite children separated from parents or guardians (such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, adult siblings) and that his goal was to ensure the removal or deportation of any detained parents or guardians. When questioned about the 850 complaints presented to BP concerning separation of children from parents or guardians, Chief Hastings admitted that there was no policy that concerned reunification of children. His only focus was on detaining, separating children, and deporting the parents or guardians even if the children were detained in different cities.
Indeed, Chief Hastings admitted that there was no policy addressing the issue of humanely separating children from their parents or guardians. He noted that there was no time permitted for the children to say farewell to their parents or even an explanation given to either children or parents about what was happening when a BP officer walked away with a child in custody. The “zero tolerance” family separation policy was allegedly stopped in June 2018 by court order. And yet, Chief Hastings confessed to the fact that children are still being separated from family members to the date of the hearing. His only objection was to the characterization of separation as “kidnapping.” Why is it not the kidnapping of a child? Because BP has a set of guidelines and the separation is a part of that guideline. In spite of the fact that the only communicable disease that is listed in the law as being a basis for denying entry into the US is active tuberculosis, the BP guideline states that a parent who is HIV-positive is not considered fit to be caring for a child and the child is taken away from them by BP officers.
Chief Hastings admitted that BP is not equipped to handle young children and infants in a detention center and that the overcrowding is a natural outcome of this situation. The result has been that foster care agencies like Bethany Christian Services (“BCS”) decide that the “best interests” of the children handed to them by ORR was to permit foster care parents who wished to adopt them to go ahead with their plans. BCS is an agency that has locations in 36 states and is intimately connected with the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Aside from donations of $3.1 million, members of the DeVos family have been on the Board of Directors of BCS, and at least one member still works for the agency. The BCS stresses that its mission is, as good Christians, to provide a “loving family” for all children. The reality and basic problem with this mission is that BCS has been creating new families for children who are already suffering from the horror of being ripped away from the loving arms of the parents to whom they were born. Trying to shift the blame between federal agencies is not a good answer to the overcrowded detention of children in camps where there is insufficient food, no access to water for hygiene, and where children lose weight from starvation and die from conditions that are unconscionable in a country that claims to be a beacon of light and hope.
- Linda A. Dominguez is the founder of L A Dominguez Law, which opened its doors in March 2006. The focus of the firm is on immigration law and LGBTQ issues. Linda has been practicing law since November 1989 and spent more than 16 years as a federal prosecutor. She is licensed in Maryland, Pennsylvania, as well as being admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 3rd, 4th, and 7th Circuits, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Linda has one precedent decision issued by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Cordova v. Holder, 759 F.3d 332 (4th Cir. 2014), on an asylum case from El Salvador.