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Waters Condemns Donald Trump’s Policy of Separating Children from their Parents at the Border

June 20, 2018
Press Release

Waters Condemns Donald Trump’s Policy of Separating Children from their Parents at the Border

Co-Sponsors Bi-cameral Legislation to End Family Separation

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, joined more than 190 House Democrats in introducing the Keep Families Together Act, H.R. 6135, which would end the Trump Administration’s family separation policy at the U.S. border. The legislation was spearheaded by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is the House companion to legislation introduced by California’s senior U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member.

“When one hears disturbing news reports that children are being ripped out of the arms of their parents only to be held in detention centers where they are locked in cages, are forced to sleep on cement floors, and are only allowed to go outdoors for limited periods of time, one would think that those reports are describing conditions under the rule of a callous dictator – not the President of the United States. Unfortunately, Donald Trump and his racist, Jim Crow-era throwback Jeff Sessions have unleashed the full power of the executive branch to target, terrorize, and traumatize children and families – many of whom are seeking refuge from the very type of mistreatment in which they are now confronted with upon arrival to the greatest democracy in the world. This is a national disgrace.

“It should come as no surprise that, when confronted with bipartisan backlash from critics of his inhumane policy to separate children from their parents at the U.S. border, Donald Trump – a man who has been caught in more than 3000 times documented lies since taking the oath of office – and members of his administration, have repeatedly lied to the American people. Trump has blamed the Democrats, and Jeff Sessions even scapegoated the Bible, in a wicked and insulting attempt to cover the truth: it is Donald Trump’s policy to separate children from their parents; it is Donald Trump’s Department of Justice that is enforcing his policy; and it is Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and their ultra-right wing allies on Capitol Hill that refuse to end these evil, unjust, and inhumane intimidation tactics at the border.

“Do not be misled by the lies from the president and his allies. This is Donald Trump’s immoral and inhumane family separation policy, which he could end with a simple phone call or the stroke of a pen. Furthermore, Congressional Republicans have failed to support commonsense legislative solutions. Instead, they are debating two proposals, H.R. 6136 the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018 (the ‘Ryan bill’) and H.R. 4760 the Securing America’s Future Act (the ‘Goodlatte bill’), that fail to that fail to adequately fix the problem. In the absence of moral leadership from the Republican party, I am proud to join my Democratic colleagues in both chambers of the U.S. Congress in supporting the Keep Families Together Act,said Congresswoman Maxine Waters

The full text of the legislation can be found here.  

The Keep Families Together Act would:

·         Keep Families Together:  The bill promotes family unity by prohibiting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials from separating children from their parents, except in extraordinary circumstances.  In these limited circumstances, separation could not occur unless parental rights have been terminated, a child welfare agency has issued a best interest determination, or the Port Director or the Chief Border Patrol agent of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have approved separation due to trafficking indicators or other concerns of risk to the child.  It requires an independent child welfare official to review any such separation and return the child if no harm to the child is present. It imposes financial penalties on officials who violate the prohibition on family separation.

·         Limit Criminal Prosecutions for Asylum Seekers: The majority of the parents separated at the border are being criminally prosecuted for illegal entry or re-entry. This bill restricts the prosecution of parents who are asylum seekers by adopting the recommendation of the DHS Office of Inspector General.  The bill delays prosecutions for illegal entry or re-entry for asylum seekers and creates an affirmative defense for asylum seekers.  It also codifies our commitment to the Refugee protocol prohibiting the criminal punishment of those seeking protection from persecution.

·         Increase Child Welfare Training: The bill requires all CBP officers and agents to complete child welfare training on an annual basis. Port Directors and Chief Border Agents, those who are authorized to make decisions on family separations, must complete an additional 90 minutes of annual child-welfare training.

·         Establish Public Policy Preference for Family Reunification: The bill establishes a preference for family unity, discourages the separation of siblings, and creates a presumption that detention is not in the best interests of families and children. 

·         Add Procedures for Separated Families: The bill requires DHS to develop policies and procedures allowing parents and children to locate each other and reunite if they have been separated.   Such procedures must be public and made available in a language that parents can understand.  In cases of separation, it requires DHS to provide parents with a weekly report containing information about a child, and weekly phone communication.

·         Establish Other Required Measures:  In order to inform Congressional oversight and promote public understanding of the use family separation, the bill requires a report on the separation of families every six months.

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