CVT Denounces President Trump’s Executive Order on Family Separation | Center for Victims of Torture

CVT Denounces President Trump’s Executive Order on Family Separation

Thursday, June 21, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. & WASHINGTON — The Center for Victims of TortureTM (CVT) calls out the president’s executive order for continuing to harm vulnerable populations by trading one punitive tactic for others.

On June 20, President Trump issued an executive order speciously titled “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation.” The executive order—which purports to respond to a crisis entirely of the administration’s own making, and which is wholly unnecessary to resolve that crisis—codifies the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy: the mass prosecution of vulnerable people seeking refuge in the United States. It may well permit the administration to continue to tear some families apart, given the discretion it affords non-experts at the Department of Homeland Security to determine what is in children’s best interests. To the extent that the executive order does halt family separation, it installs prolonged detention in its place—including, astonishingly, through the use of military facilities—and instructs the attorney general immediately to try to remove any legal obstacles to indefinitely detaining children in this manner. Finally, the executive order does nothing to reunite the parents and children who have already been separated.

“As communities across the United States celebrated World Refugee Day, President Trump took the opportunity to remind vulnerable people seeking protection in this country just how unwelcome they are. His despicable executive order doubles down on the policy choice that is driving the family separation crisis—mass prosecution at the border, including of asylum seekers—and trades one form of punishment for another,” said Curt Goering, CVT’s executive director.

Every day, clinicians at CVT provide rehabilitative care to torture survivors who have suffered profound harm—both physical and psychological—from the brutality they endured. Many of them are asylum seekers or asylees. When survivors come to the United States with children, those children are almost always secondary survivors (and thus often profoundly affected by the torture of a parent), or direct survivors themselves.

“Prolonged detention will force torture victims and others who have experienced serious violence to relive their trauma repeatedly. The prospect of locking them up in military facilities is an especially cruel twist. Uniformed personnel, guns and other weapons are common triggers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in torture survivors,” Goering continued.

The executive order and the Trump administration’s rhetoric around it present a false choice: family separation or prolonged detention. Neither is necessary and neither is the answer. The administration could release families into communities and take advantage of alternatives to detention programs, which have proven to be hugely cost effective and have demonstrated high compliance rates with court hearings.

“The administration has chosen to abandon sensible, humane options for addressing vulnerable people fleeing to this country in search of protection, just as it has repeatedly chosen cruelty in their place. It does not have to be this way. The president can, and should, reverse course,” Goering said.  


The Center for Victims of Torture is a nonprofit organization headquartered in St. Paul, MN, with offices in Atlanta, GA, and Washington, D.C.; and healing initiatives in Africa and the Middle East. Visit


Betsy Brown
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