On May 21, 2020, the Human Rights Committee of the National Association of Social Workers — Texas Chapter (NASW/TX) released the following statement:
The National Association of Social Workers – Texas Chapter (NASW/TX) strongly opposes the recent attempts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to separate immigrant families by giving families a choice between indefinite detention and a risk of contracting COVID-19 or separation from their children. As social workers who uphold values of social justice and dignity and worth of each person, we condemn ICE’s actions to use the current epidemic as a means to persecute families further.
Families detained at centers such as Karnes, Dilley, and Berks have fled violence in their country of origin, endured additional trauma through the migration journey, and experience further distress upon being detained unnecessarily as they seek to pursue their human right of asylum. With the onset of COVID-19, and the ease with which this virus can spread in places of detention and confinement, these families face an additional array of worries and threats to their well-being and health.
NASW/TX believes this is completely unjust, unacceptable, and reprehensible for ICE to contribute another layer of trauma to the lives of these families by weaponizing the pandemic and asking parents to make the nearly impossible decision between becoming infected with a highly contagious virus while remaining indefinitely detained or being separated from their children. Given what we have learned from the inhumane family separation policies of 2018, it is incredibly difficult to reunite immigrant parents and children after being separated, and even when it is logistically possible, the families will likely face a long process of healing from trauma. As social workers, we are well-versed in the dynamics of trauma, and we are aware that the damage that has already been done from family separation constitutes a crisis for all of our communities.
Now, we are aware that U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee recently ruled that all children detained in ICE facilities must be released by July 17, 2020; however, this ruling does not include the children’s parents. NASW/TX stands in solidarity with immigrant rights activists and organizations who are demanding that ICE immediately release all parents and children together, in order to keep families safe from COVID-19 and intact as a family unit.
We strongly encourage social workers to take action in accordance with suggestions from RAICES Texas, including the 30-minute phone-banking sessions described here, by Friday, July 17, 2020.