Airlines won’t transport migrant kids separated from parents

WASHINGTON — United Airlines joined American Airlines in telling the federal government to “immediately refrain” from using its planes to transport children who have been separated from their families who crossed the US-Mexico border.

Like many other US airlines, American has contracts with the federal government that allow authorities to use its planes to provide for certain travel. For example, the company said it has “carried refugees for non-profits and the government.”

“We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it,” the company said in a statement Wednesday. “We have every expectation the government will comply with our request and we thank them for doing so.”

“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,” the statement reads.

American said it has no way of knowing for sure whether its aircraft has been used to transport migrant children who have been separated from their families, but added it would be “extremely disappointed to learn that is the case.”

“[T]he government does not disclose information about the nature of the flights it takes or the passengers who are traveling,” the company said.

The statement from American comes after days of controversy following reports that the Trump administration has instituted a “zero tolerance” policy for detaining undocumented immigrants at the US border.

NBC News reported that United Airlines issued a similar request to the government.

Rather than following a “catch and release” policy, the Trump administration has pledged to prosecute everyone who attempts to migrate illegally. That means parents are taken into custody while they await their day in court, and children have been rounded up and placed in holding facilities apart from their parents.

President Trump said on Wednesday he will sign an executive order that will address the separation of families.

The news coverage has included stories of wailing cries from children asking for their parents, harsh living conditions and understaffed facilities, sparking waves of outrage against the policy.

A Facebook post began circulating last week that claims to be the story of a flight attendant on an unnamed airline who watched 16 migrant children dressed in Walmart sweats board a flight from Arizona to Miami just after midnight.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the Department of Homeland security did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

American Airlines is the first major airline to issue a statement. Delta, United, and Jet Blue did not immediately respond to requests for comment.