Press Releases

Washington - Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today to lead a group of senators in condemning the Trump Administration’s proposal to systemically separate immigrant children from their parents upon arrival in the United States. The senators asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to unequivocally reject this measure.

“We believe that a systematic and blanket policy to separate a child from a parent would likely violate the constitutional rights of the parents, violate the spirit of the Flores Agreement, inflict significant trauma on small children, create additional unnecessary due process obstacles to accessing a meaningful day in court, is contrary to arguments the Department of Justice has made before federal courts in the past, and is grotesquely inhumane,” wrote the Senators.

The senators continued, “Further, we are deeply concerned that DHS may already be carrying out such a policy.  In one recent case, a one-year-old child was separated from his father. The child was placed in a children’s shelter in Texas while the father was detained in an adult facility in San Diego. Numerous other cases in which parents have been separated from their children have been documented. It is unconscionable that the Department would consider tearing these children away from their parents, deliberately agonizing children and parents alike.”

Feinstein, Harris, Murray, and Menendez were joined on the letter by Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

The full text of the letter can be found here  and below.

February 12, 2018 

The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen
Secretary of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Secretary Nielsen:

We write to express our deep concern that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Trump Administration is considering a proposal to systematically separate immigrant children from their parents upon arrival in the United States. We condemn such a proposal in the strongest possible terms and urge you to unequivocally reject this cruel measure.

We believe that a systematic and blanket policy to separate a child from a parent would likely violate the constitutional rights of the parents, violate the spirit of the Flores Agreement, inflict significant trauma on small children, create additional unnecessary due process obstacles to accessing a meaningful day in court, is contrary to arguments the Department of Justice has made before federal courts in the past, and is grotesquely inhumane.

Further, we are deeply concerned that DHS may already be carrying out such a policy.  In one recent case, a one-year-old child was separated from his father. The child was placed in a children’s shelter in Texas while the father was detained in an adult facility in San Diego. Numerous other cases in which parents have been separated from their children have been documented. It is unconscionable that the Department would consider tearing these children away from their parents, deliberately agonizing children and parents alike.

Terrorizing children and their parents in an effort to prevent future migration also ignores the horrifying circumstances they have experienced.  For many of these children and their parents, fleeing their home country is literally a life-or-death situation.  Threatening to separate them and impairing their ability to seek protection is not who we are as a country.

During a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, you failed to repudiate this proposal. We ask you to refrain from staining America’s long-standing role as a human rights leader and to choose a different path on this issue.  In a March 7, 2017 interview with Wolf Blitzer, your predecessor, Mr. John Kelly, said that DHS was considering a policy to separate families at the border, a position he later reversed. We urge you to do the same.  Do not forsake children, Madam Secretary, especially when they have had no say in their present situation. 

We ask you to instead employ policies such as alternatives to detention that better protect families and reduce reliance on a costly and inhumane immigrant detention system. America can and should treat children with care when we take them into federal custody.  We appreciate your consideration and request a prompt response on this important matter.  

Sincerely,

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