In this June 16, 2018 photo, American Airlines aircrafts are seen at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Grapevine, Texas. American Airlines says it asked the Trump administration not to put migrant children who have been separated from their parents on its flights. In a statement Wednesday, June 20, American said it doesn't know whether any migrant children have been on its flights and doesn't want to profit from the current immigration policy of separating families. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

2 airlines ask US not to put migrant children on flights

June 20, 2018 - 4:42 pm

DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines and United Airlines say they have asked the Trump administration not to use their flights to carry migrant children who have been separated from their parents.

Both airlines said that the administration's recent immigration policy of separating migrant families conflicts with their values.

"We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it," American said in a statement.

United issued a statement in which CEO Oscar Munoz said the company's purpose is to connect people. "This policy and its impact on thousands of children is in deep conflict with that mission and we want no part of it," he said.

A spokesman for the Homeland Security Department criticized the airlines in strong terms, accusing them of no longer wanting to help the agency protect the traveling public and reunite unaccompanied illegal immigrant children with their families.

"Despite being provided facts on this issue, these airlines clearly do not understand our immigration laws," the spokesman, Tyler Houlton, said in a statement. He accused the airlines of "buckling to a false media narrative."

On Wednesday, things shifted again when President Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep families together at the southern border, saying at the White House that he doesn't like the sight of children being separated from their families. But he added that the "zero tolerance" policy will continue.

The White House announced its zero-tolerance policy toward undocumented migrants in early May. Since then, more than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents at the southwestern border, leading to a spike in the number of young children under government care. However, most of the unaccompanied minors in the custody of U.S. authorities arrived at the border without their parents.

Both American and United said they do not know whether any migrant children separated from their parents have been placed on their flights. In recent days several flight attendants have gone on social media to report seeing groups of children on their flights whom they believed to be children separated from their migrant families.

"These flight attendants were well aware of what was going on, so how can these airlines claim they didn't know? I don't believe that," said Michael Avenatti, a lawyer better known for representing a porn actress in a legal fight against Trump, but who said he also represents more than 50 migrant families who have been separated from their children.

Many airlines have contracts to provide travel services to the U.S. government. American said, however, that the government doesn't provide information about the passengers or their reason for travel.

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This story has been corrected to show that American Airlines issued a statement, not CEO Doug Parker.

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David Koenig can be reached at http://twitter.com/airlinewriter

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