June 12, 2018

Feinstein Remarks on Keeping Families Together

Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today delivered remarks on the Keep Families Together Act, a bill to prevent the separation of immigrant children from their parents:

“We continue to hear terrible news about how the government is removing children from their parents arbitrarily at the border.

The Washington Post reported recently that a 39-year-old father committed suicide in a Rio Grande City jail last month one day after his 3-year-old son was stripped out of his arms.

Public defenders in McAllen, Texas, told the Boston Globe that mothers are being told their children are being bathed and will be returned shortly, which turned out to be false. It was simply an excuse to remove the children from their mothers.

Mirian and her 18-month-old son fled violence in Honduras to seek asylum in our country. Upon arriving in in February, immigration officials forced her to give up her son, who was driven away crying. She was not allowed to comfort him and hasn’t seen him in four months. That’s an ACLU court filing.

Another mother and her two sons, ages 10 and 4, fled violence in El Salvador. After being apprehended, the family was given five minutes before the crying boys were taken from their mother. She’s been held in the Laredo Detention Center for three months and doesn’t know where here children are.

A third mother and her 7-year-old daughter fled ethnic violence and potential civil war in Congo. The mother described hearing her daughter screaming in the next room when they were separated after arriving in the United States.

She was detained in Otay Mesa and her daughter was sent to Chicago, thousands of miles away. They were separated for four months and spoke only a few times before being reunited in Chicago.

This is not the United States that we know, and we’re here to try to put a stop to it.

Last month, Attorney General Sessions announced that all adults who arrive at the border—even those seeking asylum—would be prosecuted. From October 2016 to February 2018, 1,800 families were separated, about 100 per month.

Since Attorney General Sessions had made that announcement, an average of 50 children per day are being taken from their parents. That’s 658 children over 14 days in May alone. These numbers are really shocking—and they demonstrate, I think, the gravity of what families are facing.

The administration is arguing that the separations are required by law. But let me be clear, that’s false. No law requires this action and the Trump administration should reverse this policy today.

Children are terrified. Parents are heart broken. And families are being destroyed.

Our new bill would keep immigrant families together by preventing DHS from taking children from their parents at the border.

The bill ensures children may only be separated from their parents in the event they are being trafficked or abused by their parents.

I’d like to thank Congressman Jerry Nadler for introducing this legislation in the House, and well as the 32 cosponsors in the Senate. We have four here today, in addition to myself and I look forward to hearing from them.

One last comment. This is really about our values as a country. It’s who we are as a country.

And we’re here to say this is just simply wrong and we’ve got to put an end to the taking of minor children from their parents at the border.”