Four airlines have put out statements asking the Department of Homeland Security not to put migrant children on their flights. And DHS says they’ve got it wrong.
The airlines — Frontier, United, Southwest, and American Airlines — all stated they wouldn't allow their planes to be used to transport children away from their families as part of the Trump administration’s immigration policy of criminally prosecuting anyone crossing the border. The Department of Homeland Security chided the airlines for “buckling to a false media narrative.”
The separation of migrant children from their parents has provoked widespread outcry over the practice in the past two weeks, intensifying in the past few days.
“Despite being provided facts on this issue, these airlines clearly do not understand our immigration laws and the long-standing devastating loopholes that have caused the crisis at our Southern border,” DHS Press Secretary Tyler Houlton said in a tweet. “Buckling to a false media narrative only exacerbates the problems at our border and puts more children at risk from traffickers.”
As part of the “zero tolerance” policy, established in April, when an adult is arrested and taken to a federal facility, their child can be sent to any of several facilities across the country. For example, at least 106 children separated from their parents at the border have been sent to New York City, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. And earlier this month, immigrant parents were sent to a detention center near Seattle.
The Department of Homeland Security generally charters flights for immigrants, but there have been unconfirmed reports of immigrant children aboard commercial flights.
In response, the airlines all put out statements indicating that they would take no part in separating kids from their parents, because it runs contrary to their corporate values. All of the airlines said they were not aware that their flights had been used to transport immigrant kids.
“Based on our serious concerns about this policy and how it’s in deep conflict with our company’s values, we have contacted federal officials to inform them that they should not transport immigrant children on United aircraft who have been separated from their parents,” United CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement.
“We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it,” a statement from American Airlines said. “We have every expectation the government will comply with our request, and we thank them for doing so.”
After President Donald Trump issued his executive order Wednesday seeking to stop the separation of families at the border, Southwest issued a statement too.
“We do not wish to have involvement in the process of separating children from their parents. Therefore, we appeal to anyone making those types of travel decisions not to utilize Southwest Airlines,” the company said in a statement.
And Delta, a fifth airline, didn’t commit to keeping immigrant kids off their planes, but said in a statement posted to its website: “Recent reports of families being separated are disheartening and do not align with Delta’s core values.”
On Wednesday, Trump finally signed an executive order, aimed at keeping families together in U.S. custody — after claiming, falsely and repeatedly, that only Congress could fix the problem. It’s not a reversion to the policy prior to “zero tolerance,” and will likely be challenged in the courts. And it’s not clear yet what will happen to the thousands of children who have already been separated from their parents.
Cover image: In this June 16, 2018 photo, American Airlines aircrafts are seen at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Grapevine, Texas. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)