The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) applauds the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for rescinding the harmful 2018 Memorandum of Agreement that resulted in the arrest and deportation of unaccompanied children’s relatives who came forward to seek their release from HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement custody.
NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy responded to this announcement with the following statement:
“For the past three years, unaccompanied children were used as bait to arrest, detain, and deport their undocumented relatives. A punitive agreement between DHS and HHS left children languishing in HHS custody and scared their caregivers from coming forward for reunification. This situation even created an intentional bottleneck at the border, leaving children in squalid border jails because HHS failed to promptly release unaccompanied children whose sponsors were too fearful to come forward. We applaud the news that HHS and DHS have finally terminated their agreement. Detained children’s welfare and family reunification should never be weaponized for enforcement purposes. This termination must be the first step toward reinforcing a robust firewall between immigration enforcement and the care of unaccompanied children. We further call on DHS to redress the harms suffered by children and their relatives because of the 2018 agreement, too many of whom endured arrests, detention, and deportation for the mere right to reunify as a family.”
For more on the 2018 MOA between HHS and DHS, see NIJC and the Women’s Refugee Commission’s report and a letter from a coalition of 112 organizations calling for an end to information-sharing between the agencies.