Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, with a group of 31 of his colleagues, this week introduced legislation to keep immigrant families together by preventing the Department of Homeland Security from taking children from their parents at the border.
“Separating children from their parents is both cruel and immoral,” said Bennet. “These families are fleeing violence and instability and leaving their homes in search of safety and security. The administration’s inhumane separation policy exacerbates the trauma these children and their parents face. It also does nothing to make us safer and violates what we stand for as a country. Congress must take a stand and end this policy immediately.”
The Keep Families Together Act was developed in consultation with child welfare experts to ensure the federal government is acting in the best interest of children. The American Academy of Pediatrics, Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Children’s Law Center and the Young Center for Immigrant Rights support the bill.
On May 7, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that all adults who arrive at the border would be prosecuted for illegal entry, even if they attempt to seek asylum. This policy, which has never before been pursued, has resulted in parents being separated from their children. Prosecuting individuals who are seeking asylum may also violate the United States’ obligations under international law, including the U.N. convention on refugees and its Protocol.
At a May 24, 2018, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Customs and Border Protection informed the committee that 658 children were taken from 638 parents during a 14-day period in May, an average of 47 children being taken from their parents each day.
To protect the welfare of children, the bill allows the government to separate them from their parents only in the event that they are trafficking or abusing them. To provide an additional layer of protection, the bill provides for an immediate review by a superior upon the recommendation to separate, and only after consultation with a child welfare expert.
In addition to Bennet, the bill is cosponsored by 31 senators, including Senators Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (D-N.J.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).