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Viral photo of crying toddler captures horror of US immigration policy

Monday June 18, 2018 10:25 PM, Agencies

Children at border

[A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the US-Mexico border. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)]

New York: A viral photo of a 2-year-old Honduran girl crying while her mother is searched at the Texas border taken last week has shaken many.

The photo captured by Pulitzer Prize-winning Getty Images photographer John Moore in the Rio Grande Valley, shows the 2-year-old toddler dressed in a bright pink sweater crying helplessly as she looks up at her mother. The woman’s face is unseen in the shot but, according to Moore, she was being searched by a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent at the time.

Moments after the photo was taken, the mother and child were hurried into a van with a group of other undocumented migrants and whisked away to a processing center, Moore said. It’s unknown what became of the toddler and her mother.

The picture began circulating with people on social media speaking against the US government's move to separate children of adults illegally entering the United States. "Beyond heartless, this is soulless", BobbieJane tweeted @bobbiejaneV tagging the New York Daily News report.

Twitter user christine teigen using her verified account @chrissyteigen, wrote, "This little girl is the same age as my daughter. Luna is the happiest thing. The funniest girl. And she is absolutely terrified to look around and realize she is too far away from us, even for seconds. The fear she would feel here fills me with rage and sadness."

The US government on Friday reported that 1,995 children were separated from 1,940 adults at the US-Mexico border between April 19 and May 31. On the other hand, officials at the Department of Heath and Human Services (HHS) say they could be caring for some 30,000 children by the end of August as the hard-nosed push on federal immigration laws continues.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions had in May announced a "zero tolerance" policy against people illegally entering the United States. According to the policy, anyone found entering the US illegally would be criminally charged, which would lead to their children being separated as children cannot be charged under the US laws.

The policy has drawn condemnation from medical professionals, religious leaders and immigration activists, who warn that some children could suffer lasting psychological trauma. The children are held in government facilities, released to adult sponsors or placed in temporary foster care.

According to US law, children, being minors, won't be charged for illegally entering the country. Though the children arrive with their parents, once they're separated they are considered as "unaccompanied children" and are transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of the US Health and Human Services. These children are then placed in detention facilities for children.

It can take a fairly long time to reunite the children with their families. The children are sent to detention facilities which are far away, while their parents are apprehended in detention facilities closer to where they were detained. If the charges are proved, the parents have to go to jail, further harming their chances of reuniting with their kids.

The US administration officials have defended the move as necessary to secure the border and suggested it would act as a deterrent to illegal immigration. Trump has sought to blame Democrats, saying their support for passage of a broader immigration bill would end the separations.

"The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda. Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it! WIN!", Trump wrote on Twitter.

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