Media Sparks Mass Mobilization Around Child Separation

On Wednesday, President Trump signed an executive order halting his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their detained parents who were caught crossing the border illegally. Under the order, families will be held together in Department of Homeland Security detention centers while they await “criminal improper entry or immigration proceedings involving their members.”

The order came after both Democrats and Republicans began distancing themselves from President Trump after the public outcry over the separations.

With the possibility of “permanent separations” looming, Republican lawmakers started to pair their promises of a comprehensive immigration reform bill with efforts to end separations. On Friday, Trump contradicted his pledge that he would remain “1,000%” behind the reform bill by tweeting that the GOP should forget about the bill until after the midterm elections, reasoning that a more substantial Republican majority would be necessary to pass the legislation.

Given the uncertainty and trepidation surrounding the situation, reporting on the issue has been vigilant, with reporters covering updates from DHS and working in conjunction with local attorneys who are representing detained parents.

In recent days, efforts to mass mobilize volunteers and attorneys have doubled. Smaller organizations including the Texas Civil Rights Project and Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid have been handling the cases of hundreds of parents. The overwhelming caseloads have necessitated the arrival of volunteer lawyers who have been training to serve in “rapid response” teams created to assist with reunification and asylum claims.


Earlier in the week, volunteers flocked to LaGuardia Airport in New York City after responding to calls for assistance in protesting, monitoring and reporting on incoming flights of separated children being accompanied by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and DHS officers. Make the Road NY, the largest immigrants’ rights organization in the city was one of the first on scene, calling for volunteers on Twitter, with arriving protestors covering incoming flights from Terminals B and C.

Growing public outcry over the separation policy also pressured several US airlines to request the Trump administration to discontinue using their commercial flights to transport separated children. With the involvement of the airline industry, it became clear how “pervasive and passionate” the opposition to the policy had become.

With the story getting wrapped in the news cycle however, it is prudent the media doesn’t become lax in its coverage. New figures estimate that an average of 65 children were separated each day, in addition to the 2,342 separated between May 5 and June 9. Since separations were halted on Wednesday, it’s likely the real number of separated children is substantially higher than previously imagined.

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