Babies as young as three months old have been ripped from their parents at the border and taken as far away as Michigan under a new zero-tolerance policy enacted by the Trump administration.
The state's Department of Civil Rights said children separated from their parents were arriving in Michigan, which has long offered a refuge to immigrants seeking asylum, for temporary foster care placement.
The state and federal government has contracted with a variety of agencies and organizations, including Bethany Christian Services, to arrange care for these children, toddlers and infants.
“While the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, along with people all over the nation, decry the forced separation of children from their parents taking place on our southern border, the policy is a federal issue and beyond the scope of this department’s responsibilities under law," said Agustin Arbulu, executive director of the government agency.
Arbulu said the department would work to ensure the children's civil rights were protected while staying in Michigan, but he called on the Trump administration to end the policy and return them to their parents.
"Some of the children are infants as young as three months of age and are completely unable to advocate for themselves," Arbulu said. "While we commend the work of resettlement agencies in Michigan attempting to serve these children with dignity and compassion, nothing can replace the love, sense of security and care of a parent.”
Babies at three months old are usually able to hold up their heads on their own, and are beginning to make eye contact, recognize their parents' faces and the sound of their voices.
“These systematic issues need to be resolved by adults," said Dona Abbott, of Bethany Christian Services. "Children are getting caught in this situation, when they shouldn't be -- they should just be cared for."
Children occasionally got separated from their parents after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border prior to April, but Abbott said that has completely changed since zero-tolerance prosecutions were enacted six weeks ago.
"Now about 90 percent of the children we serve have been forcibly separated," Abbott told WZZM-TV.
She said sometimes the agency is given information about where parents are being detained, but not always, and workers spend weeks calling detention centers as the children struggle with psychological trauma.
“Foster parents are loving caring people, but it takes time to prove to a child that this is a safe place to be, because oftentimes parents don’t even have the time to tell a child that," Abbott said.
She said the nonprofit organization has been so inundated with children and babies that they must turn away some of them.