Zero-tolerance policy leaves children without their parents

McALLEN – While many families across the United States spent Father's Day with loved ones, some spent Sunday confined within chain-linked fences, sitting or laying on thin mattresses or metal benches under dim lighting using only a large foil thermal blanket.

Some cried for water, some parents were with their children but in one cage-like space children waited without their parents. Alone, in a cage with the United States serving as their form of adult supervision.

The scene inside of the Ursula Border Patrol Processing Center was heart breaking. Unfortunately it is where many immigrant families – much who are seeking asylum – are sent to await prosecution. Since the “zero-tolerance” policy passed in April by the Trump Administration the number of immigrants put into these types of facilities has drastically increased.

In fact, nearly 1,100 immigrants were at the Ursula facility before being transferred to the United States Department of Homeland Security. Those remaining await being processed yet due to the influx of immigrants, many await longer than the 72-hour period; the maximum number of hours the Border Patrol can hold them.

The Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief for the Border Patrol Manuel Padilla Jr. said the center is suppose to be a temporary stop for immigrants. Padilla also said there is no official policy that separates families. He explained that the “zero tolerance policy is intended to deter people from breaking the law.”

Plus any child accompanying them is “temporarily” taken away while their parents are put into the criminal justice system.

“Than is no different than a United States citizen parent that is going through the judicial process,” he said.

Yet in some way the policy is to blame because of the increasing number of families being separated.

Padilla stated most children coming into CBP are already unaccompanied and that parents with children under four years of age are not to be taken away. But still from October 2017 up until May 31 nearly 2,700 children have been split from their parents.

While the policy is not intended to separate families it still does and many critics have called foul, other call it inhumane.

While the media was allowed access to tour the Ursula Processing Facility, The National Domestic Workers Alliance organized a rally in the scorching heat hoping the families inside could hear them chant: “You are not alone!”

The rally also included speakers like an 11-year-old girl from Florida who was once a Dreamer. Also attending was Marzena Zukowska, a strategist with NDWA.

Zukowska donned a red and yellow shirt as she canvased the rally not only helping others in the heat but protesting herself to an issue she holds close to her heart. As a first generation American and once undocumented immigrant from Poland she understands living under constant paranoia.

“This does not need to be happening,” Zukowska said. “This is something that has been self-created by the administration and it can easily end. Kids do not need to be separated from their families.”

The fight continues to help these children keep and lawmakers like Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) has voiced his contempt with the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services for the separation of families at the U.S. - Mexico Border.

“This 'zero-tolerance' policy is un-American,” he said. “It needs to end now.”