A Trump administration official Thursday admitted that immigration authorities are willing to separate immigrant children from their parents if a parent is HIV-positive.
Chief Brian Hastings of Customs and Border Patrol made the statement under questioning from U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing, the Washington Blade reports.
Raskin asked if a mother or father’s HIV-positive status “is alone enough to justify separation from their child.” He said he’d heard reports of separations under these circumstances. Hastings replied, “It is because it’s a communicable disease under the guidance.”
The congressman followed up by pointing out that HIV is “not communicable by contact,” so he wondered why it’s considered a communicable disease. Hastings just answered, “That’s the guidance that we follow.” Raskin asked where the guidance as from, but Hastings wasn’t sure.
Raskin then asked if there would be family separations because a parent had the flu, which is communicable, and Hastings said no.
“It’s unclear what guidance on HIV the CBP chief is referencing,” the Blade notes. President Barack Obama’s administration in 2010 lifted a ban on entry to the U.S. by people who are HIV-positive — a ban established three decades earlier. With the lifting of the ban, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed HIV from its list of communicable diseases of public health significance.
HIV “has not been considered a communicable disease of public health significance since 2010,” Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, told the Blade. “We are appalled to learn that the U.S. government is again stigmatizing immigrants living with HIV,” he added. “Separating children from their parents because they are HIV-positive deeply misunderstands basic public health and will irreparably harm families and children.”
Not only is HIV not transmitted by casual contact, but it is almost impossible to transmit through exchange of bodily fluids if an HIV-positive person has suppressed their viral load to an undetectable level through treatment, or if an HIV-negative person is taking pre-exposure prophylaxis, the daily dosage of a drug preventing them from becoming positive if exposed to the virus.
GLAAD tweeted the following statement of outrage about Hastings’s remarks and noted that it is the 118th attack by Donald Trump’s administration on LGBTQ people and their allies.
The Blade has sought comment from CBP about the origin of the separation policy regarding HIV and if families have been separated because of it, but has received no response yet.