family separationLast updated
While the term “family separation” may apply to any situation where family members are separated from one another, in the context of immigration it refers to the forced removal of migrant children from their parents or caregivers.
The Trump administration’s enforcement of family separation resulted in several months of action, during the most intense period of which 1,995 migrant children were separated from their parents over a six-week period in 2018. The children were taken into government custody or foster care, while their parents were sent to detention centers. Many of the adults were eventually deported. In June 2018, President Trump signed an executive order ending the practice, though it did not completely end.
When using the term, for clarity it’s helpful to distinguish between “forcible separation” or “separation by US Customs and Border Protection” and separation occurring through other circumstances, for instance accidental separation.
The term “family separation” does not only describe situations at the border; other examples have occurred throughout American history, such as when Indigenous children were forced to go to boarding “schools” far from home, or the practice of enslaved people being sold away from their families.
- The Trump administration’s separation of families at the border, explained (Vox)
- The Trump Administration’s Family Separation Policy Is Over (Center for American Progress)
- Biden Brings Back Family Separation—This Time in Mexico (Politico)
- An American History of Separating Families (American Constitution Society)
Family separation refers to the forcible separation of migrant children and families. In recent years, it has become associated with a particular period of government action in 2017-2018. When using the term, for clarity it’s helpful to distinguish between “forcible separation” or “separation by US Customs and Border Protection” and separation occurring through other circumstances, for instance accidental separation.