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On The Front Lines

Conceding the Need to Keep Families Together, President Trump Issues Executive Order, Halts Border Patrol’s Migrant Family Separation Policy

WASHINGTON, DC — In response to a growing wave of criticism across the political spectrum for the government’s policy of separating migrant children, some as young as 3 months old, from their parents as part of the Trump Administration’s efforts to deter illegal border crossings, President Trump has issued an executive order ending the child-separation policy at the U.S. southern border. Although the government intends to continue its prosecution of migrants who enter the country illegally, Trump has declared his intention to allow children and their parents to remain together while in custody.

Warning that separating young children from their parents indefinitely and locking those children up in cages is pushing the nation into dangerous territory morally and otherwise, John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, has been among those raising an outcry over the White House’s new “zero tolerance policy” for separating undocumented parents from their children at the border as a way of discouraging illegal immigration.

 “While illegal immigration is a problem that must be addressed, forcibly separating migrant children from their parents, transferring custody of them to the U.S. government, and detaining them in cages should not be the solution,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “The question we should be asking is not whether a particular government’s actions are legal but whether they are moral and just. As Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out 55 years ago in his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ ‘everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.’ In other words, there comes a time when law and order are in direct opposition to justice.”

In April 2018, the Trump Administration announced its plan to adopt a zero tolerance policy for illegal immigration that would subject to detention and prosecution any migrants illegally crossing the border and transfer their children into government custody. The policy expanded on some problematic illegal immigration policies in place under prior administrations that has resulted in thousands of children being separated from their families and detained in facilities ill-suited to adequately care for young people.

In McAllen, Texas, for example, undocumented migrant children are being held in cages made out of wire and net. These children are sleeping on concrete floors with thin foil “space blankets” for a blanket. In Brownsville, Texas, reportedly more than 1,000 children who have been separated from their parents are being held in a former Walmart facility with blacked-out windows that has been transformed into a detention center and is being run by a government contractor. Reports have also surfaced indicating that government officials may have lost track of nearly 6,000 “unaccompanied” migrant children. The children are classified as “unaccompanied” if they arrive at the border with a parent or guardian who is attempting to illegally enter the country or request asylum.

The Rutherford Institute’s video statement and Whitehead’s commentary on the government’s migrant family separation policy are available at