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Update #1: United Airlines and Frontier Airlines have now joined American Airlines in stating that they do not want their airlines to be used to transport children who have been separated from their parents at the border.
Update #2: In response, the Department of Homeland Security states:
It’s unfortunate that American Airlines, United, and Frontier Airlines no longer want to partner with the brave men and women of DHS to protect the traveling public, combat human trafficking, and to swiftly reunite unaccompanied illegal immigrant children with their families. 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. Buckling to a false media narrative only exacerbates the problems at our border and puts more children at risk from traffickers. We wish the airlines would instead choose to be part of the solution.
Update #3: Southwest Airlines joined United, Frontier, and American in saying that they do not wish to be a part of the process that separates children from parents. President Trump signed an order ending the policy that was separating children from families at the border this afternoon. Shortly thereafter, Delta Air Lines released a statement that reports of families being separated do not align with their values and they “applaud the Executive Order resolving the issue of separating children from their families at the U.S. border.”
This is a family travel site, and a very large elephant in the room for me lately has been what is happening to the children and families attempting to enter our country. Thousands of children, many in my own border state of Texas, have been taken from their families when they attempt to enter the United States. Over 2,000 immigrant children, even babies and toddlers, are currently living in facilities, warehouses, and what looks like makeshift cages, stripped away from their parents here in the United States of America.
As you may know, not all children in these situations are kept long-term in border states, but instead can be dispersed throughout the country. One of the ways that these children can get from the border states to other places around the country is by plane. A few days ago, social media posts began to bubble up that perhaps sixteen children, ranging in age from about six to eleven years old, had been flown from Phoenix to Miami in the middle of the night on an American Airlines operated flight.
Online reports on social media were that these children did not speak English, that they appeared scared and tearful, and were wearing ‘black and gray cheap Walmart sweatsuits’. The circumstantial evidence made it appear to some that American Airlines was being used to fly children even further away from their families.
American Airlines tells government not to use them to fly children separated from parents at the border
Thankfully, American Airlines is not a willing participant in the family separations happening at the border. Today, American Airlines has issued a statement that says:
The family separation process that has been widely publicized is not at all aligned with the values of American Airlines — we bring families together, not apart. American, like many U.S. airlines, provides travel to the federal government through contracts; however, the government does not disclose information about the nature of the flights it takes or the passengers who are traveling. While we have carried refugees for non-profits and the government, many of whom are being reunited with family or friends, we have no knowledge that the federal government has used American to transport children who have been separated from their parents due to the recent immigration policy, but we would be extremely disappointed to learn that is the case.
We have therefore requested the federal government to immediately refrain from using American for the purpose of transporting children who have been separated from their families due to the current immigration policy. We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it. We have every expectation the government will comply with our request and we thank them for doing so.
American Airlines also told me directly that they, “…checked our flight records and none match the account circulating on the Internet.” However, they did confirm that a group of children ages 13 to 17 was recently traveling, but that they do not know the reasons for travel. They did not answer my question as to how they will verify they are not flying children taken from their families at the border going forward, but hopefully they have some procedures underway for this.
Sometimes you have the choice of either taking a stand against something or becoming a complicit part of the problem. At least going forward, American Airlines has publicly stated they do not want to be a part of this current government policy of ripping children from their parents at the border. I will not be the least bit surprised to see other airlines follow in their footsteps and also refuse to be a part of this human-caused crisis impacting children and families seeking a better life in this country.
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