Illinois Senator Dick Durbin visited a local organization Friday that is helping shelter children separated from their parents under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
According to Senator Durbin and organization officials, 66 children are being housed by the Heartland Alliance in their nine Chicago-area shelters, a third of whom are under the age of five.
“Sixty-six children are here because of the ‘zero tolerance’ policy,” Durbin said. “It’s interesting to see these children up close, and to realize that a third of them are under the age of 5. It looks like a kindergarten or a daycare situation.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, two-thirds of the children housed by the organization are under the age of 13.
Family Separation at the Border, Explained
In the last few weeks, controversial immigration policies resulted in the separation of thousands of families who attempted to cross the border. President Donald Trump reversed himself, but not before 2,342 children were taken from their parents, according to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security.
Data: DHS, HHS
Interactive: Peter Andringa, Sabrina Cheung/NBC; Reporting: Noreen O'Donnell/NBC
The Alliance, a non-profit human rights organization, is providing shelter to children separated from their parents under the policy, and is providing legal services to parents dealing with immigration issues.
The group is also working to reunite children with their parents after President Trump signed an executive order putting a halt to forced separations at the border.
“These children are scared when they arrive at our doors,” Alliance President Evelyn Diaz said. “And I can tell you my staff are doing everything in their power to make a horrible situation less scary to provide comfort and support to the children, and to reunite them with their families as quickly as possible.”
According to senior Trump administration officials, about 500 children of the 2300 that were separated from their parents have been reunited, but Senator Durbin criticized the administration for not doing more to reverse the policy.
“I was happy when President Trump signed the executive order, but the executive order does not solve the problem,” he said. “This is not who we are in America. This is not what our nation stands for.”
According to NBC News, the Trump administration is drawing up plans to house as many as 20,000 migrants on U.S. military bases.
For those looking to help migrant families separated at the border, several Chicago organizations are offering their services. The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights, based in Chicago, is helping, as is the National Immigrant Justice Center.
Other organizations can be found on the NBC 5 website.