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Durbin Delivers Opening Statement During Judiciary Committee Hearing on Ensuring the Safety and Well-Being of Unaccompanied Children

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Ensuring the Safety and Well-Being of Unaccompanied Children.” Today’s hearing will examine the exploitation of unaccompanied non-citizen children in the United States, existing protections under the law, and the need to ensure that the United States protects these vulnerable children.

Key quotes:

“During the Obama Administration, some Republicans falsely claimed that the DACA program to protect Dreamers from deportation was the reason that unaccompanied children were fleeing to our border.”

“When the Trump Administration began, and unaccompanied children were still coming, some Republicans claimed that the TVPRA was to blame.”

“But they were ignoring the obvious.  The world was – and still is – in the midst of the worst refugee crisis in modern history.  And we have a moral and legal responsibility to protect vulnerable children who are fleeing persecution.” 

“This is an issue that should transcend politics.  So I have tried to be consistent in my oversight efforts, whether the president is a Republican or a Democrat.”

“I vigorously opposed the Trump Administration’s inhumane family separation policy.  And I immediately raised concerns following recent reports that unaccompanied children were exploited.”

“Our laws require that these children are screened for human trafficking, housed in child-appropriate settings, and reunified with family in the United States while they await their immigration proceedings.”

“But the tragedy is these children are still at risk.  Migrant children have been forced to work long hours in extremely dangerous conditions—from meatpacking plants to slaughterhouses.” 

“Since 2018, our nation has seen a nearly 70 percent increase in illegally employed children.” 

“Earlier this year, I demanded that the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services do more to protect migrant children.  Both have made some progress, but more must be done.”

“And let’s not forget our responsibility.  It is no secret that employers throughout our country are struggling to find workers.  Some states—like Arkansas—have even loosened child labor laws in the hopes of addressing our workforce needs.”

“I hope today’s hearing will be an opportunity to revive the bipartisan spirit from many years ago and discuss how to protect unaccompanied children who are scared and traumatized.”

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.

Following a bombshell New York Times report in February, Chair Durbin took to the Senate floor to call on Congress to protect children from exploitation and fix our broken immigration system. Durbin and 16 Senate colleagues wrote to the Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and then-Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh to request information on children’s placement with sponsors and investigations into child labor. In May, Durbin announced his intention to hold a committee hearing on the issue, while leading oversight efforts to hold companies accountable for unlawfully employing migrant children.