Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement correcting the record on the Trump administration’s mischaracterizations of laws that protect unaccompanied minors and legislation to prevent family separation:
“According to media reports, the group of immigrants traveling north from Central America is largely comprised of families, including young children. Honduras and Guatemala have been plagued by horrific violence and poverty. Those feeling these countries to seek asylum walk thousands of miles and face additional threats to their security and well-being in search of safety and a better life.
“The Trump administration is using scare tactics to exploit the plight of these families to justify renewed family separations and launch another attack on protections for unaccompanied immigrant children.
“It’s a lie for the White House to say that our bill to prevent family separation allows ‘open borders.’ It doesn’t prevent deportations or hinder legitimate law enforcement efforts. Nothing in the bill prevents the FBI or local law enforcement from arresting a border crosser who is wanted for a serious crime. The bill also permits families to be held together in facilities that meet basic standards and are equipped to care for children.
Unaccompanied immigrant children
“It’s important to understand how poorly unaccompanied children were treated before my bill to provide basic humanitarian and due process protections was signed into law in 2008. The plight of these children first came to my attention 20 years ago. I saw on the news a 15-year-old Chinese girl trembling before an immigration judge. She was shackled and sobbing.
“Her story was not unique. Young children were being held in secure prisons, isolated and forced to wear prison uniforms and shackles. Some were even placed in solitary confinement, even though they weren’t accused of a crime. Sadly, we’re seeing similar tactics being employed by this administration—with children under five years old being placed before a judge to sign away their rights.
“There was broad, bipartisan support for protecting these children then and there is broad support now. Ensuring we treat children humanely has never been a partisan issue. My legislation was signed into law by a Republican president, and it should be a bipartisan issue to ensure basic protections now.
“Our bipartisan efforts to protect children should not fall victim to the anti-immigrant agenda of the Trump administration and the president’s policies of fear and division.”