Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement in reaction to the arrival at the U.S. border of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States:
“Children and families fleeing horrific violence who reach our borders have a right to claim asylum. The United States has an obligation under domestic and international law to fairly process these claims. These families have traveled thousands of miles and deserve to be treated humanely, even if their asylum claims are ultimately denied.
“None of the families seeking asylum at the border should be intentionally separated from their children. Media reports indicate that since October as many as 700 children have been separated from their parents, including 100 under the age of 4. This is a needlessly cruel and unacceptable policy that likely infringes on parents’ constitutional rights to remain with their children.
“Let me unequivocally state that I will oppose all efforts to weaken or repeal laws relating to the processing of children who arrive at our borders. The Trump administration has used the arrival of these immigrants to again call for the repeal of protections for children, derisively claiming they are ‘loopholes.’
“These laws aren’t loopholes. I know because I helped write them. They merely guarantee that children will be treated humanely—not detained indefinitely—and have the right to seek asylum or other immigration relief available under existing law. The Trump administration shouldn’t be using families and children fleeing violence as political bargaining chips to roll back critical protections for children.”
Background on protections for unaccompanied children
Feinstein’s laws, enacted in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, require that children under 18 be placed in the least restrictive setting that is in their best interests. Rather than holding children in detention facilities that also hold adults or criminal juvenile offenders, preference is given to releasing them to family members or appropriate sponsors such as a family friend.