May 24, 2019

Judiciary Democrats to DHS: Don’t Conduct ‘Show of Force’ Raids on Immigrant Families

Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats called on the Trump administration not to conduct mass arrests of immigrant families and children, including asylum seekers, as a show of force. These arrests would likely separate families and force children to spend months in foster care or without supervision.

The letter was in response to reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is considering plans to raid homes and neighborhoods of immigrant families, despite objections raised by former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and former ICE Acting Director Ronald Vitiello before leaving the department.

“Family separation is cruel and unacceptable, especially in light of the administration’s disastrous zero-tolerance policy which separated thousands of families, many of whom have still not been reunited,” the senators wrote. “It is simply not appropriate to make children the collateral damage of policies that are intended to convey a ‘show of force.’”

Full text of the letter follows:

May 23, 2019

The Honorable Kevin McAleenan
Acting Secretary
United States Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Acting Secretary McAleenan:

We write to express serious concern about recent reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plans to arrest thousands of families and children from their homes and neighborhoods across the United States. Past experience shows that when parents are deported or detained, children are isolated and separated from their families. Too often, they can spend months in foster care or without supervision. In some cases, older siblings are forced to care for their younger brothers and sisters, and tragically some families are never reunited. Accordingly, we urge ICE not to detain vulnerable children and parents who pose no danger to our communities.

Reports indicate that ICE intends to arrest at least 2,500 adults and children in ten major cities. These are not dangerous criminals, but families who have fled violence and poverty in their home countries to seek asylum in the United States. We are especially alarmed that ICE intends to conduct these arrests despite reported objections from then DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and then Acting Director of ICE, Ronald Vitiello. According to reports, Secretary Nielsen and Acting Director Vitiello warned that ICE has insufficient plans to ensure that young children would be adequately cared for during and after these arrests. Specifically, because the arrests could occur during school hours, thousands of children could be separated from their families when their parents are arrested. Additionally, parents of United States citizens would be separated from their children, who could not be detained in immigration custody.

Family separation is cruel and unacceptable, especially in light of the Administration’s disastrous zero-tolerance policy which separated thousands of families, many of whom have still not been reunited. It is simply not appropriate to make children the collateral damage of policies that are intended to convey a “show of force.” Therefore, we ask you to terminate any plans to arrest and detain families who have sought asylum in the United States. Additionally, please provide answers to the attached questions by June 3, 2019. Thank you for your consideration and for your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

Patrick Leahy
United States Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senator

Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator

Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator

Mazie K. Hirono
United States Senator

Cory A. Booker
United States Senator

Kamala D. Harris
United States Senator

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