New York, NY, July 26, 2018 … As the court-issued deadline for family reunification looms today, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) delivered a petition today to the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security with 38,000 signatures calling for an end to the catastrophic human rights violation that is the Administration’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy. ADL called on the Trump Administration to reunite all separated families immediately and to end the policy that created this humanitarian crisis.
“The trauma experienced by these children who remain detained and separated from their families, some of whom have very little hope of being reunited, is beyond cruel,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO and National Director. “We cannot rest until every child is reunited with his or her family and the government once and for all ends the inhumane policy at the border it instituted which created this mess.”
The petition was first launched on May 11 (in English and Spanish) and was given lift by a video released by ADL in conjunction with the Hidden Child Foundation, a group of Holocaust survivors who were separated from their families during the Second World War. The Hidden Children felt strongly compelled to speak out about what was happening on the border, and their initial video garnered more than 1 million views on YouTube, Facebook, NowThis and other online platforms.
Today, ADL released a second video from the Hidden Child Foundation featuring Astrid Gunzburg and Miriam Rakowski, survivors from Belgium who were separated from their families and taken into hiding. Gunzberg was five when she was removed from her parents and spent her time with six different families during the war; Rakowski was separated from her family when she was just a few weeks old and lived with a series of families in Switzerland and the U.S. before she was reunited with her mother, whom she had no memory of.
To be clear, ADL and the Hidden Child Foundation are in no way making a direct comparison to the Holocaust. That being said, now aged in their 70s and 80s, survivors are reacting to what is happening along America’s southern borders with a mix of anger and disbelief, calling the practice of separating families with young children inhumane and unconscionable.
“A prolonged separation will damage the child,” said Rakowski. “I had a series of separations throughout my life because of the war. As a result, in my late 20s I was suicidal. I was emotionally in a very bad state of mind.”
“I am here because I am so revolted, offended, angry,” added Gunzburg. “It’s criminal; it’s horrible; I don’t have enough words.”
Over 1,000 children are still separated from their migrant parents and the government previously reunited only about half of the children who are under the age of five. The government has claimed that about 900 parents are either not eligible, or not yet known to be eligible, for reunification with their children, including more than 400 parents separated from children over the age of five whom the government can’t locate or have potentially already deported without their children. Children who are detained continue to be subject to inhumane and disturbing conditions.
According to news reports, approximately 2,500 children total were removed from their migrant parents at the border under the “zero tolerance” policy. Such practices have the effect of causing unnecessary trauma to the children – many of whom have already suffered significant traumatic experiences – negatively impacting their physical and mental health and increasing their risk of early death.