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Immigrant Parents Are Being Charged Up to $8 a Minute to Call Their Children

Like everything else he does, Trump’s immigration policy appears to be based around making money.

A US Customs and Border Protection officer watches as boys separated from their parents and held at the Nogales Placement Center try to make phone calls on June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Arizona.

If your phone carrier charged you $8 per minute to speak on the phone, you’d immediately cancel that plan and look for a more reasonable offer. The one exception might be if your children were being held captive and only one service provider allowed you to communicate, you’d pay whatever is necessary to have a conversation with them.

Go figure that the diabolical Trump administration has decided to exploit a situation like that. Callous federal policy has resulted in thousands of migrant families being separated at the border, and now BuzzFeed News reports that the government is milking them for extra cash if they want to occasionally keep in touch.

The White House created this problem by instituting a “zero tolerance” approach to immigration and tearing kids and parents apart in an attempt to deter other would-be migrants from coming to the United States. It then exacerbated the problem by developing no logistical system for reuniting the families. That’s not just zero tolerance, that’s zero thought and zero heart.

As a result, the government is still trying to figure out how to return kids to their parents, and has had to receive extensions to make that happen. At the very least, in the meantime, the government should better facilitate phone calls.

While there’s no reason to expect that the kids will come out of this traumatic experience without some serious psychological scars, even a phone call could go a long way toward making the vulnerable, young child feel more loved and not completely abandoned. Depriving families of this opportunity is just compounding the cruelty.

According to ICE’s own rules, detainees are supposed to have access to free telephone calls to immediate family members in cases of emergencies. Indefinite separation from your kids sure seems like an emergency.

ICE insists that it does not charge detained parents to call their children, however both NPR and Texas Tribune investigative reports found immigrants being billed anywhere from 25 cents to $8 a minute for the privilege of reconnecting via telephone. How surprising that immigration agents either don’t know or aren’t following the rules.

Many of these families come to the United States with very little money to their name – charging broke, desperate people to communicate with their families is a way of ensuring such calls do not happen with any frequency.

Unfortunately, a lot of Trump’s immigration policy appears to be based around money. Private corporations are racking up millions to house/cage migrant children in their facilities, so of course they’re not interested in seeing this practice end anytime soon. Moreover, some parents are being forced to choke up $700-800 to take DNA tests so the government can track down where they put their kids.

Congressional Democrats are rightly furious about the telephone call business, calling the price gouging “shameless” and “morally reprehensible.” One hundred and fifty liberal legislators have signed a letter demanding ICE provide phone service for free to separated families.

Take Action

Join the Democrats in demanding that ICE adhere to its own policy and permit separated kids and parents to call each other free of charge by signing this Care2 petition.

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