Press Releases

Democrats: DHS Separations of Immigrant Families are Wrong and Unlawful

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Washington, February 8, 2018 | Ben Soskin ((202) 225-1766) | comments
Today, 75 Democratic congressmembers, led by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Co-Chairs of the Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform; Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security; and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen expressing profound concern with the Department of Homeland Security’s practice of separating immigrant families, both in the United States and at the U.S.-Mexico border.  Numerous studies and stories have shown this practice traumatizes those seeking humanitarian relief and limits their ability to lawfully pursue legal relief.  You can read the letter here.

In the letter, the 75 members urge the Department of Homeland Security to immediately clarify current policies and to reverse any established or de facto policies that undermine the ability of those seeking humanitarian relief to pursue protection, or that result in the needless separation of and harm to families.

“I am deeply concerned about our immigration system using unlawful tactics to tear families apart, rather than respecting the importance of family unity,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard.  “Many immigrant families come to the U.S. out of a desperation to survive.  They already carry emotional, mental, and physical scars from leaving their homes, leaving their loved ones, and facing dangers on their way to the U.S.  It is simply wrong to separate these families once they are in America.  The bonds of family are fundamental to American life, and DHS should work to keep families together and ensure they are treated humanely.”

“Separating children from their parents is unconscionable and contradicts the most basic of American family values,” wrote the congressmembers.  “Moreover, the reported justification of this practice as a deterrent to family migration suggests a lack of understanding about the violence many families are fleeing in their home countries.  More pointedly, the pretext of deterrence is not a legally sufficient basis for separating families.

“We are deeply disturbed by reports that the practice of separating families is increasing.  Two recent complaints filed with DHS oversight components, the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG), illustrate that DHS appears to be intentionally separating families for purposes of deterrence and punishment.

“We believe that separation is especially unnecessary given that ICE can and should turn to humane, less costly, alternatives to detention, such as the Family Case Management Program, which ICE prematurely terminated after only one year of a five year pilot.  Rather than protecting the best interests of the child, practices that punish and deter immigrant families violate fundamental domestic and international principles of family unity and are inconsistent with numerous U.S. child welfare and refugee laws and obligations.”

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