Reps. Roybal-Allard and Jayapal statement on Trump considering new family separation policy

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Washington, DC – Congresswomen Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), the co-chairs of the Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform, issued the following statement about news that the Trump Administration is once again considering a cruel family separation policy on the southern U.S. border:

“We are deeply concerned that the Trump Administration is considering new policies to separate mothers and fathers from their children.  The Administration’s original zero-tolerance policy tore thousands of families apart and inflicted lasting trauma on more than 2,600 vulnerable children seeking refuge in America.  The Trump Administration’s cruel actions earlier this year to separate children from their parents drew strong bipartisan criticism from child welfare specialists and health professionals.  This family separation policy has stained our country’s history as a beacon for those fleeing threats and terror in their home countries.

“While any policy of family separation is cruel and immoral on its face, this Administration’s incompetence ensured that its family separation policy would be even more deeply inhumane.  The Administration admitted to operating a “pilot program” for zero tolerance long before the policy became official – concerns we initially raised in a February 8, 2018 letter to DHS – yet it still failed to prepare for the eventuality of reuniting families.  This clearly demonstrated that the Trump Administration intended to orphan these children permanently.  Today, many families are still separated, and many may never be together again.

“Rather than separating and detaining families, the Trump Administration should keep using proven community-based alternatives to detention that will treat children and families humanely as they go through their immigration court proceedings.  These individuals have escaped dangerous and violent situations in their homelands.  The very least we can do is to treat them with dignity and respect while they are in our government’s custody.”

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (DHS OIG) released a report that found “DHS was not fully prepared to implement the Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy or to deal with some of its after-effects.”  The report also found that DHS “struggled to identify, track, and reunify families.”  Notably, on June 23, 2018, DHS announced that DHS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had a “central database” containing location information for separated parents and children that both agencies could access and update.  However, the DHS OIG could find no evidence that such a database existed.  The report also detailed that hundreds of children were held in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody for more than 72 hours.  In one case, a child was in Border Patrol custody for 25 days.  Internally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) never received data from CBP on mothers and fathers separated from their children, and appeared to take no steps to identify and reunite families for weeks after DHS implemented the policy.  DHS took weeks to provide data that the DHS OIG requested on separated families.  When the data was finally provided, it was “incomplete and inconsistent, raising questions about its reliability.”