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#WhereAreTheChildren: Anger grows over US border policy

Trump blames his own policy of separating children at the US-Mexico border on Democrats.


Anger is mounting in the United States at the government's policy of separating children from migrant and refugee parents who are caught crossing the US-Mexico border.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has taken a tough stance on what it deems to be unlawful crossings of the US-Mexico border and has vowed to prosecute the refugees and migrants who do so.

"If you cross the border unlawfully  ... then we will prosecute you," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said earlier this month. "If you're smuggling a child, then we're going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law," he added. "If you don't want your child separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally. It's not our fault that somebody does that." 

This "zero-tolerance" policy is a departure from the previous precedent that placed those detained in immigration proceedings while their asylum claims were examined or deportation proceedings finalised. Families were often kept together in shelters, or released to await their hearings. 

As a result of the recent arrests, thousands of children have been separated from parents who have been detained and placed in the care of sponsors, but officials say some 1,500 are unaccounted for, according to figures first reported by The New York Times and Associated Press last month.

The scale of that number has sparked outrage on social media, especially amid reports that some of the children had fallen into the hands of human traffickers. 

"This [policy] is without a doubt one of the cruellest, most inhumane decisions President Trump has proposed so far," said Democrat legislator Joe Crowley, earlier in May, adding: "Shame on him and shame on any Republican who doesn’t immediately speak out against it."

Weeks later, there has been no let-up in anger towards the Trump administration, and many are demanding to know the whereabouts of the unaccounted children.

'Crime against humanity'

The Twitter hashtag #WhereAreTheChildren trended in the US overnight on Saturday and drew thousands of tweets.  

"Ripping young children away from their mothers is already beyond horrifying. But having some of the children sold into human trafficking is the greatest injustice this administration has ever done. It is a crime against humanity," wrote Dr Eugene Gu, a frequent Trump critic. 

Author Maggie Smith said: "My kids are asleep upstairs in their beds. It makes me physically ill to imagine having them pulled from me, going months without seeing them, not knowing if they are safe or even alive. This is, simply, evil."

Trump has responded by blaming his Democrat rivals for the "law" that he and his officials have themselves introduced and enforced.

"Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there[sic] parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS," the US leader wrote, referring to the predominantly Hispanic street gang.

There is no evidence to suggest undocumented migrants are more likely to be involved in criminal activity. To the contrary, studies show that they are less likely to the break the law.

Trump has a long track record of fiery rhetoric against immigrants, and his election campaign included a pledge to build a wall across the US-Mexico border and to ban Muslims from entering the US.

He is still looking at ways to finance the former, and a modified version of the latter is being debated at the Supreme Court.

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