06.19.18

Whitehouse Demands Answers from DHS About Forced Family Separation at the Border

“Nothing about all of those [administration] explanations looks as bad as the image of children behind chain link fences under Mylar blankets, and the sounds of them crying in captivity.”

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) this morning demanded answers from a top Department of Homeland Security official about the Trump administration’s new policy of separating children from their parents as families arrive at the Mexican border seeking refuge in the United States.  Emphasizing the importance of prosecutorial discretion, Whitehouse questioned United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Francis Cissna about the policy during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Noting the wide range of conflicting explanations for the family separation policy from President Trump and administration officials, Whitehouse observed that “nothing about all of those explanations looks as bad as the image of children behind chain link fences under Mylar blankets, and the sounds of them crying in captivity.  If this administration doesn’t get that it is bad for our country to have those images out there as what America represents, I don’t know what hope there is for dealing with this with the administration.”

Watch Whitehouse’s full comments in today’s hearing here.

The Trump administration separated at least 2,300 children from their parents, many of whom were fleeing dangerous situations in their home countries, between early May and early June.  Over 11,000 children are currently detained.  There is no law requiring that migrant families be separated.  The separations are a consequence of a new Trump administration policy announced in April by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to maximize criminal prosecutions of migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Reports have surfaced in recent days of young children held in cages and sleeping on mats with thermal blankets, unsure when or if they will see their families again.  The President of the American Academy of Pediatrics yesterday said that the administration’s policy “amounts to child abuse.”

Whitehouse is a cosponsor of the Keep Families Together Act, a bill introduced by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that would keep asylum-seeking families together, and prevent the Department of Homeland Security from taking children from their parents at the border.  The legislation would only permit the Department to separate families under a court order or to protect a child from serious harm.

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