Trump administration ‘taking kids away’ from HIV-positive parents at border

Border Patrol chief Brian S. Hastings confirmed the Trump administration policy.

The Trump administration is taking kids away from parents who are living with HIV, a high-ranking official has confirmed.

Brian Hastings, chief law enforcement officer at Customs and Border Protection, made the extraordinary admission while being grilled by Congress on Thursday (July 25).

Democratic lawmaker Rep. Jamie Raskin had challenged Hastings over reports of “people being separated from their kids” because of their HIV status.

Border chief: HIV status can lead to family separation

Raskin asked: “If a mother or father has HIV-positive status, is that enough to justify separation from their child?”

Hastings responded: “It is, because it’s a communicable disease under the guidance.”

Brian S. Hastings, chief of the Law Enforcement Operations Directorate of the US Border Patrol in US Customs and Border Protection of the Homeland Security Department speaks during a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on June 26, 2019 in Washington, DC

Brian S. Hastings, chief of the Law Enforcement Operations Directorate of the US Border Patrol in US Customs and Border Protection of the Homeland Security Department. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

When Raskin pointed out that HIV is “not communicable from ordinary contact” and can only be passed on under limited circumstances, Hastings replied: “That’s the guidance that we follow… I’m not sure if that came from legal counsel, but I believe that’s defined as a communicable disease.”

However, he said that the policy would not lead to family separation in the case of the flu, an actual communicable disease.

The official’s claims were widely condemned.

HIV discrimination policy ‘relies on discriminatory falsehoods’

LGBT+ charity GLAAD said: “Targeting people living with HIV as part of the cruel family separation policy is a new low for the Trump Administration.

“This policy relies on discriminatory falsehoods about people living with HIV, and will undoubtedly bring harm and further stigma.”

In a statement to the Washington Blade, Aaron Morris of Immigration Equality said: “We are appalled to learn that the US government is again stigmatising immigrants living with HIV.

“Separating children from their parents because they are HIV-positive deeply misunderstands basic public health and will irreparably harm families and children.

“[HIV] has not been considered a communicable disease of public health significance since 2010.”

HIV cannot be passed on at all when someone is on effective treatment and has an undetectable viral load. For people who are not on effective treatment, HIV can only be transmitted by blood-to-blood contact or sexual intercourse.

Raskin told the Washington Blade: “We would never allow parents and children to be separated in any courtroom in America solely for this reason.

“As a member of Congress, a citizen, a constitutional lawyer but above all as a father of three children, I am outraged by this unconscionable, irrational and cruel policy.

“I urge CBP and the Trump Administration to end it tonight.”