Access Living Statement on White House Family Separation Policy


June 20, 2018 | by Emma Olson

As a disability rights and services organization, we fear for the lives and lack of support for children with disabilities, or who may develop disabilities due to this traumatic practice


Bridget Hayman

Director of Communications

(312) 640-2129

June 20, 2018 – Access Living condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of the Trump Administration in its policy of separating immigrant families detained at the US/Mexico border. As a disability rights and services organization, we fear for the lives and lack of support for children with disabilities or who may develop disabilities due to this traumatic practice. Furthermore, the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council concerns us gravely, as we have long understood disability rights to be human rights, as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In serving the many diverse communities of our home city of Chicago, we have long understood that the disability experience is braided in the immigration experience in specific ways, including but not limited to:

  • Many immigrants have disabilities, or support family members with disabilities.
  • Many immigrants work as support workers for people with disabilities.
  • Disability may be the impetus that forces a family to move from a disability-hostile country to one that can better meet their needs.
  • Medical deportation, or the direct deportation of disabled persons in hospitals, is a recurring problem that puts lives at risk.
  • Disabled undocumented immigrants risk deportation merely for trying to secure healthcare or personal supports they may need in this country.
  • Disabled undocumented immigrants face lack of access/accommodations in detention centers; some disabilities may be greatly exacerbated by the detention process, placing some at risk of suicide.
  • Thousands of students with disabilities in the Chicago Public School system have parents who are immigrants, or are they themselves immigrants.
  • Our staff members includes immigrants and the children of immigrants.

Our community organizing group Cambiando Vidas, supported by Access Living staffer Michelle Garcia, has for several years organized on immigrant issues as they affect people with disabilities, especially in the Latino community. We at Access Living ground ourselves in solidarity with our grassroots members and partners fighting for better lives for immigrants of all kinds.

Access Living also acknowledges that the forced separation of families is not a new phenomenon in US history, and the disability community in particular lives with the ongoing legacy of the institutionalization of children with disabilities. This type of experience can cause such trauma that it creates new disabilities for the child. The White House family separation policy is also reminiscent of the days when children with disabilities were seized by Nazi authorities and sent to camps for extermination.

As each day passes with this policy in force, we grow ever more outraged. We call on our elected officials and community partners to recognize this policy as cruel and unusual punishment, and a violation of human rights. Families are not bargaining chips. We must work together to end the current travesty of child detainment at America’s southern border. Access Living calls on the wider disability community to stand in solidarity with these families now, and to remain so going forward.

Disability Advocacy Community Statements
Statement from the Arc of the United States
Statement from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)
Statement from the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
Statement from the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy