Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New CAP Report Highlights How Accountability Is Vital To Bring Justice After the Family Separation Policy
Press Release

RELEASE: New CAP Report Highlights How Accountability Is Vital To Bring Justice After the Family Separation Policy

Washington, D.C. — Individual and collective accountability for the family separation policy established by the Trump administration is needed to hold people responsible; restore public faith in government institutions and American ideals; prevent further abuses and degradation of the rule of law; and provide appropriate redress. These are the main conclusions of a report released today by the Center for American Progress.

The infamous family separation policy started in 2017, with a pilot program in El Paso, Texas, implemented by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to systematically separate hundreds of children from their parents at the border. Despite clear issues with that program, officials recklessly pursued separations, traumatizing thousands. To date, hundreds of children taken from their parents nearly three to four years ago continue to be separated.

Key actions for accountability at the individual level as well as collective responsibility for this U.S. official policy include:

  • Ensuring that going forward, the government respects individuals’ human rights and acts within just and fair legal constraints
  • Focusing on senior decision-makers and the flawed and failed systems that were so easily abused when this atrocity was carried out
  • Considering traditional legal action, including criminal and civil liability, as well as forms of accountability such as the removal of professional licenses and more general reputational repercussions
  • Establishing durable legal protections for affected families to be able to reunite and remain in the United States
  • Considering granting asylum, where appropriate, without requiring individuals to present additional testimony
  • Exploring whether a restitution fund may be established to provide additional financial assistance to families whose needs resulting from this policy have developed over time
  • Designing a training to improve how U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and officers who encounter migrants at and between the ports of entry understand how their interactions are perceived by migrants and the effects of their actions

“When those in positions of power carry out policies contrary to American law and basic human rights, accountability is an absolute necessity. Those who traumatized thousands of families and tortured children must not be accepted back into society as if their actions were acceptable,” said Maggie Jo Buchanan, director of Legal Progress at CAP and co-author of the report

“The Trump administration’s family separation policy was full of reckless incompetence and intentional cruelty. Years later, hundreds of children remain permanently separated from their parents, and recent reports indicate the likelihood of additional family separations,” said Claudia Flores, senior campaign manager with the Immigration Policy team at CAP and co-author of the report. “As the Biden administration and advocates continue reunification efforts—a necessary first step in addressing the enormous harms inflicted on children and their families—accountability for the perpetrators of the family separation policy must be part of the U.S. government response.”

Related resources:

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Claudia Montecinos at [email protected].