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Feinstein Speaks Against Bill Ending Protections for Immigrant Children and Families

Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today spoke against a partisan asylum bill that would effectively eliminate asylum for Central Americans and the Flores Agreement.

            Video of her remarks is available here.

            “We’re at an impasse, no question. There are very strong feelings on this side. We believe that the solution on the immigration issue can and should be addressed in a bipartisan manner. We’ve done that before.

            The year was 2013 – the Senate passed comprehensive legislation to reform our entire immigration system. That bill passed on a vote of 68 to 32 including three Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans.

            As Acting Secretary McAleenan testified before us last month, “We’d be a lot more secure along the border” if that bill had become law.

            Unfortunately – and this is the problem – the bill we have on the agenda today isn’t bipartisan like the prior bill. I think that’s a real signal because it’s not going to happen if it’s not.

            This bill is focused almost exclusively on repealing protections for children and effectively eliminating asylum for Central Americans. We’re not going to do that.

            This bill eliminates the Flores Agreement, which is the only way the government has been required to ensure facilities that hold children can maintain minimum standards. Clean drinking water and safe and sanitary conditions – that’s not too much.

            Not only does this bill eliminate that mandate, it gives DHS the sole discretion, unreviewable by any judge, to determine the detention conditions for children.

            Given what has been documented at the border, it’s clear to me that DHS should not be the agency in charge of setting humane standards for detention.

            This bill also gives the federal government the authority to preempt state childcare licensing requirements and even ignore state family court orders.

            Giving DHS such broad power, we believe, will have a devastating impact on children. As the inspector general stated last month, DHS has been unable to meet the current standards for care of children.

            The bill contains policy changes that would send unaccompanied children back to violent situations, abused children back to abusive parents. It would prevent people in the United States from applying for asylum. It would close the door to people fleeing persecution.

            It’s a big deal. If enacted, it would be a significant setback for children and families seeking asylum and we’re just not going to let it happen.

            This should indicate how strongly we feel on this side. We’re at an impasse. We ask that we follow what our tradition has been, Mr. Chairman, and that’s a bipartisan bill.

            Every time we have worked bipartisan, that we have sat down, we have been able to work it out and come up with a positive solution.”