Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara speak about son River for first time in op-ed about families separated at US border

'As new parents, it's unbearable to imagine,' the couple wrote

Trump campaign spokesperson claims parents of children separated at US border do not want them back

Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara have spoken about their baby son, River, for the first time.

The Joker star, 46, and Carol actor, 35, shared that they had become first-time parents in an op-ed they wrote for People magazine about families separated at the US-Mexico border.

The couple named their son River in honour of Phoenix's late brother, actor River Phoenix, who died in 1993 of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 23.

However, the couple have not publicly spoken about the birth of their son, until now.

In the article, Phoenix and Mara addressed recent news reports which stated that parents of 545 children separated at the border by immigration officers have not yet been found.

“The weight of that number is staggering. Five hundred forty-five children,” they 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.”

According to NBC, 2,800 families were separated by border officers in 2018 as part of president Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, while more than 1000 parents were separated from their children under a pilot program the year before.

“The practice of taking children away from their parents at the border was intended to be a deterrent. Many of the families subjected to it were asylum-seekers — meaning they came to the US looking for our help after fleeing violence and danger at home,” the couple wrote.

“Instead, in order to send a message to other families who were on the run, we took their children away from them hoping that word might filter back home that new peril awaited anybody looking to make a similar journey. In some cases, this meant quite literally ripping children younger than 5 out of the arms of their parents, even babies under a year old.”

Phoenix and Mara argued that “the damage will be lifelong” for the children, adding that psychologists have stated that even short periods of forced removal from parents can cause “irreparable emotional harm”.

The couple concluded their op-ed by envisioning how they might explain the crisis to their newborn son in the future.

“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, defenceless children, some of whom may never see their parents again?” they wrote.

“For the sake of our nation's character, I 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.”

The birth of Phoenix and Mara’s son was revealed by documentary film director Victor Kossakovsky at the Zurich Film Festival on 27 Sept following a screening of the documentary Gunda, which Phoenix executive produced.

During a Q&A with journalists, Kossakovsky said: “He just got a baby by the way, his name was..beautiful son called River.”

The couple have also reportedly been engaged since last year, however they have not confirmed the news themselves.

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