Vegan couple Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara spoke out publicly for the first time about their newborn son in an op-ed they wrote for People about the ongoing child-separation crisis at the Southern border of the United States. They began by pointing to the fact that the parents of 545 young children separated from their parents by the so-called “zero-tolerance” policy enforced during the Trump administration from 2017 to 2018 have yet to be located. “The weight of that number is staggering. Five hundred forty-five children,” the couple wrote. “As new parents, it’s unbearable to imagine what it would feel like to have our child taken away from us for a day, let alone years. But that’s the very situation those 545 children and their parents have been living through. As Americans, it’s our responsibility to continue paying attention to the plight of these families and get answers for why they still have not been located.”

The couple explained that despite a court order granted to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in summer 2018 to halt the separation of minors and parents at the border—which required the government to hand over a list of parents to the ACLU to help reconnect them with their children—a shocking number of families remain separated as parents were deported without their children in order to deter other families from seeking asylum in the US. 

“We have to ask ourselves: Is this the country that we want? Are these our values? How will it feel to explain to our son, when he asks us about this time and how we treated scared, defenseless children, some of whom may never see their parents again?” the couple wrote. “For the sake of our nation’s character, [we] hope we will be able to tell him that America unequivocally rejected this cruelty and demanded that our representatives did everything in their power to find those missing parents.”

After quietly dating for several years, Phoenix and Mara got engaged in 2019 and welcomed their son River—named after Phoenix’s late brother—earlier this year.

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