Airlines ask Trump not to put migrant children who are separated from their parents on their flights

A group of 16 migrant minors were allegedly transported from Phoenix to Miami on an American flight on Wednesday

                            Airlines ask Trump not to put migrant children who are separated from their parents on their flights
(Source:Getty Images)

The Trump administration has been asked by two of the country's biggest airlines not to put migrant children who have been separated from their parents on their flights. On Wednesday, after reports that a group of 16 migrant minors may have been transported from Phoenix to Miami on an American flight, the company put out a statement with regards to the same.

The US government does not provide information about passengers or their reason for travel while booking flights with the airline, owing to legislative policy and the fact that American Airlines has contracts with the government, reported CNBC.

A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

That being said, the airline company asserted that they don't want to be making profits off a heart-wrenching situation. The airline wrote in the said statement that tearing apart families "is not at all aligned with the values of American Airlines".

They said that if their flights were used to transport these embattled children, as a company, they would be "extremely disappointed".

"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," the statement reads. 

Another major American airline, United, also released a statement about the issue following their competitors.

Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Airlines, said he had looked into the matter internally and was "concerned" about the reports. According to him, the airline has not been used to fly any of these troubled minors. Nevertheless, he does not want anything to do with the situation at the border.

"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," Munoz said. 

"Our company's shared purpose is to connect people and unite the world. This policy and its impact on thousands of children is in deep conflict with that mission and we want no part of it," Munoz added.

Following suit, Frontier Airlines also issued a statement, saying they "will not knowingly allow our flights to be used to transport migrant children away from their families". Even Spirit Airlines gave their two cents on the issue saying they don't transport people in government custody as they don't have any contracts with the federal government.

On Tuesday, the Houston Chronicle published a Facebook post by Hunt Palmquist, who is a flight attendant from Dallas for a major US airline, where he said that "Little children whose faces were full of fear, confusion, sadness, and exhaustion left me somewhat traumatized as it occurred to me a few weeks later that I might as well have been a collaborator in their transport. I will immediately remove myself from the trip due to the nature of this unconscionable act by my government and my employer's complicity," he wrote.

The "zero tolerance policy" at the border has perturbed quite a few airline crew members.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, the labor union that represents flight attendants at United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and others, said: "This national discussion and response is being felt on the planes and discussed among crews. Some are struggling with the question of participating in a process that they feel deeply is immoral. Airlines are often a first point of contact for any public debate on these issues because all of society passes through our aircraft," she added.

After Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the new "zero tolerance" policy for undocumented immigrants crossing the border illegally back in April, more than 2,000 children have reportedly been separated from their families.

The new policy dictates that immigrants illegally entering the United States must be prosecuted immediately for their illegitimacy and be separated from their children owing to the legal process.

Tyler Houlton, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, in a tweet called it "unfortunate" that the 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."

Previously, the asylum process would be given higher priority than prosecution for illegal entry into the country. Families would be detained for up to 20 days at a federal detention center and, if their case did not come to a conclusion, they would be "released" into the United States in order to return for a future court date. This system was known as the "catch and release", and was widely abused by immigrants who did not pay heed to the law and would ultimately settle in the country.

That being said, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle criticized the president for the situation of the children. On Wednesday, President Trump signed an executive order to end the separation of families, but maintained that the "zero tolerance" policy would still be in effect.

Delta Airlines, the country's largest carrier airline, issued a statement after Trump's order having previously refused to comment on the case.

"Delta's mission is to connect people and we are against anything that runs contrary to that mission. Recent reports of families being separated are disheartening and do not align with Delta's core values. We applaud the Administration's Executive Order resolving the issue of separating children from their families at the U.S. border," the statement read.