It is a major issue nationwide: children separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border.
The Trump administration started a policy this year called “zero tolerance.” This criminally prosecutes any person found illegally crossing the U.S./Mexico border. Kids can’t be behind bars alongside their parents, so families were separated. Last month, the president signed an executive order which ended family separation. But some families are not reunited. On Thursday, we’re learning a little about how many such cases are in South Dakota.
We may be hundreds of miles from the border, but Taneeza Islam says you can still find families in South Dakota feeling the effects of the “zero tolerance” policy.
“As an immigration lawyer here and part of the immigration committee to the state bar, we’ve been communicating amongst each other, and we know of about maybe five or six cases so far that are where parents, so usually the mom, has been released and is now in South Dakota searching for their child who has been separated,” Islam said.
Islam knows of parents in Sioux Falls, Watertown, and Brookings. She says they come from Central American countries. KELOLAND News asked her if their kids are in South Dakota, too.
“We’re not sure,” Islam said. “That’s what we’re hoping to figure out.”
It’s known where one child is: Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“We have a biological parent that’s in South Dakota, but because of the chaos of the process, this kid has been placed into a foster care agency,” Islam said.
The two have been able to speak, but the agency will not release the child until they have DNA results. Islam says in many cases, the parents came to the United States to get away from violence in their home countries.
“Usually they’re released on bond, because they have a pretty good claim to asylum,” Islam said. “So when you’re fleeing violence and persecution, I mean these are things that we as Americans cannot fathom, right? Even the worst kind of gang-infested areas of our country, don’t see the level of violence that these families and kids are fleeing.”