Washington, DC – This afternoon, Congresswomen Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), the Co-Chairs of the Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform, held an immigration forum at the U.S. Capitol to discuss the impact of Trump Administration immigration policies on children and families. The forum placed particular focus on the harm of separating children from their parents, whether those separations occur at the U.S. border or within the United States itself. The forum was livestreamed at http://www.dems.gov/live and at https://www.facebook.com/HouseDemocrats/videos/10155053280753548.
The forum heard remarks from special guests House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, as well as Working Group Co-Chairs Congresswomen Roybal-Allard and Jayapal. Additional members included House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05), House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley (NY-14), Congressmembers Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Karen Bass (CA-37), Judy Chu (CA-27), J. Luis Correa (CA-46), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-04), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Grace Meng (NY-06), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Norma J. Torres (CA-35), and Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07). Panelists included Ashley Feasley, Director of Policy for Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Dawnya Underwood, LGSW, Director for Children’s Services at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service; Emily Butera, Senior Program Officer for Migrant Rights and Justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission; Sameera Hafiz, Advocacy Director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance and We Belong Together Campaign; and Dr. Lanre Omojokun Falusi, MD, FAAP, Immediate Past President of the District of Columbia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Associate Medical Director of Municipal and Regional Affairs at the Child Health Advocacy Institute.
“I am deeply concerned about the Trump Administration’s immigration policies and actions, including Homeland Secretary John Kelly’s statement that separating children from their immigrant parents was ‘on the table,’” said Rep. Roybal-Allard. “This was a shocking statement, to say the least. Sacrificing the well-being of children for any purpose is immoral and inhumane. It goes against the fundamental values of our nation and our legacy of treasuring and protecting children. What makes this proposal even more heinous is that it is baseless, and for the sole purpose of implementing a government tactic to enforce a part of this administration’s ill-conceived immigration policy. My sincere thanks go to our forum’s panel of experts, who helped us to understand better the serious direct and long-term impact such a cruel policy will have on innocent immigrant children and their families.”
“The damaging policies that the Trump administration has churned out disregard the lives and livelihoods of immigrant women and children,” said Rep. Jayapal. “Women have been the majority of immigrants for quite some time, and it is imperative that we put them at the center of the discussion on comprehensive immigration reform. These inspiring, resilient women make our society stronger, smarter and better off. Separating them from their families and striking fear into their communities, as this administration has suggested, is disaster disguised as a solution.”
“I thank Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard and Rep. Pramila Jayapal for holding today’s forum on the impact of President Trump’s immigration policies on children and families,” said Whip Hoyer. “Our country is great because we are guided by our morals, which tell us that having children wrenched from the arms of their parents is wrong. We diminish America when we carry out policies such as these that are not humane. We are a country of immigrants, of refuge, and of safety, and Democrats will continue to oppose policies that are contrary to our nation’s principles.”
“At a time when immigrants have been demonized, it is more important than ever for Members of Congress and the public to hear directly about the bravery and courage of immigrants,” said Chairman Crowley. “Our country was founded by those who came to America seeking a better life for themselves and their families. We should all celebrate and cherish their contributions to our communities.”
“People who have built lives and put down roots in America should not have to live in constant fear of being taken from homes or separated from their families,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Immigrants are inseparable from the fabric of our country and my city — and that’s why leaders everywhere are standing up to demand that our residents be treated with the justice and compassion that defines who we are as a people. I am grateful for Congresswoman Roybal-Allard’s leadership and partnership, and will continue standing with her on the values that we share.”
“As a former pro bono attorney representing foster children, I know that they are twice as likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder than U.S. war veterans,” said Rep. Barragán. “Immigrant children do not need the added trauma of being placed in foster care after leaving violence from their home countries and migrating through harsh conditions. I will work with my colleagues in the House as we underscore the urgent need for humane and comprehensive immigration reform that keeps families together.”
“Trump’s immigration policy – which is really more of a deportation policy – is based on xenophobia and racism,” said Rep. Chu. “Over and over again, he has told Americans that immigrants are threats to be feared. Dehumanizing them is the only way to sell his cruel plans, and so that is why today’s forum is so important. Trump needs to hear the real stories of the real people his policies are hurting. Immigrant families are an important part of what makes our country great, and it is our duty to ensure all Americans feel welcome and safe to pursue opportunities here.”
“President Trump’s immigration policies aren’t stopping bad guys,” said Rep. Correa. “They’re breaking up families and hurting kids. Families are scared. Kids are witnessing their parents being deported. This is indefensible. I will continue to fight for our immigrant families, but folks need to be prepared. Have a plan. Have someone who can help. We don’t know what’s going to happen next, so be prepared.”
“The impact this President is having on American families of all types is very troubling, but especially the families of immigrants,” said Rep. Gutiérrez. “There are 5 million U.S. citizens who have a parent who is undocumented and they are growing up to fear their own government and tremble at every knock on the door. That is going to have an impact on those children and many others for the rest of their lives, so I am appreciative that we took some time today to think about and discuss the consequences of Trump Administration policies going forward.”
“America is, has been and always will be a nation of immigrants,” said Rep. Lee. “Now more than ever, we must fight to preserve our foundational values of inclusion and openness. President Trump’s xenophobic and inhumane immigration policies will devastate the most vulnerable among us, including immigrant families and innocent children. We simply cannot allow this un-American agenda to proceed. As a Member of the Appropriations Committee, I will work with my colleagues to resist funding for these misguided policies. Simply put: this is not who are.”
“President Trump’s immigration policies are thoughtless, ineffective, and wholly without compassion,” said Rep. Meng. “They encourage indiscriminate deportation and ripping families apart. This does not serve our national interest and should never even be considered a reasonable approach to address immigration issues. We need immigration reform that is comprehensive and humane, and unfortunately this Administration has given us the opposite.”
“As Chair of the Mental Health Caucus I am extremely concerned about the psychological trauma President Trump’s immigration orders are inflicting on children and families,” said Rep. Napolitano. “Children are afraid to go out shopping or out into their communities because they are afraid their parents will be taken and they’ll be left alone. We are hearing from superintendents that some kids aren’t even going to school, fearing their parents will not be at home when they return. We must continue to coalesce all the strength of all churches, organizations, and individuals to speak against these inhumane policies. Thank you to the panelists for being here and for your continued advocacy for our children.”
“As immigrant communities across the country are living in fear and children are witnessing their parents ripped away, it is clear the Trump administration’s approach to immigration is nothing short of harsh and extreme,” said Rep. Torres. “Their recent decision to separate scared and vulnerable mothers and children at the border where they are seeking refuge is simply reprehensible. I thank Congresswomen Roybal-Allard and Jayapal for organizing this important forum, so we can shed light on the devastating impact of this cruel measure.”
“All of us must raise our collective voice in opposition to immoral immigration policies that would tear families apart,” said Rep. Velázquez. “I will continue working with my colleagues to protect immigrant communities and oppose this Administration’s draconian tactics.”
“Immigrant communities are under threat as a result of increased immigration enforcement measures,” said Ms. Butera. “At the border, families seeking asylum are already being separated, and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly has made clear that this Administration is considering formalizing a policy of separating families as a form of punishment. Across the U.S., communities have seen home raids and enforcement actions that have torn parents away from their families – sometimes while their children watch – and left children fearful to play outside, go to school, or be away from their parents for any period of time. The Women’s Refugee Commission is pleased to stand with the Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform and Congressional leaders to shed a light on the harm that the Trump Administration’s immigration policies are causing for family unity and children’s well-being, and to call for an end to policies that are tearing families apart.”
“Immigrant children and families are an integral part of our communities and our nation, and they deserve to be cared for, treated with compassion, and celebrated,” said Dr. Falusi. “Most of all, they deserve to be healthy and safe.”
“Women around this country agree that immigration policies must honor the important contributions of immigrant women to our families and communities and keep families together,” said Ms. Hafiz. “Immigrant women must be able to work in safe and fair working conditions, survivors of gender-based violence must be able to access safety and justice and immigrant women must be able to keep their families together.”
During the Trump Administration, there have been vivid and haunting reports of families from across America separated by immigration agents. In Los Angeles, Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, a father of four, was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials earlier this month after dropping off one of his daughters at school. In Houston, Jose Escobar was arrested in Feburary and has been deported to El Salvador, far from his wife and two children. In Indiana, father and restaurant owner Roberto Beristain was detained by ICE in February and is facing deportation to Mexico. In Chicago, mother Francisca Lino was informed this month that she will be deported to Mexico in July. The Trump Administration’s cruel and persistent separation of families cannot be tolerated.
Top photo of Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (Facebook)