Dear Friend,

The Trump administration’s cruel zero-tolerance policy has resulted in more than 2,500 children being forcibly separated from their parents. The trauma of this experience will affect these children and families for years to come.

It should be obvious to all of us how wrong it is to rip innocent children away from their parents and put them in desert tents, windowless stores, cages, or so-called “tender age” shelters. As a mom, the plight of these children breaks my heart. As an American and the granddaughter of immigrants, it makes me furious. I know that many of you feel the same way. In June, I received more than 2,000 messages from constituents about family separation, and you overwhelmingly oppose this horrible practice. Thank you for your calls and emails – please keep it up!

I’ve been doing everything I can to stop this policy and work to reunite children and parents. I wrote directly to President Trump to demand that he stop separating families. I pressed Health and Human Services Secretary Azar to end the policy of separating families and called for greater transparency on the care and conditions of children in HHS custody. And after a federal court recently ordered the government to reunite families, I called on the Trump administration to explain its plan for reuniting families that were separated at the border and to reunite them as quickly as possible. Almost 80 of my colleagues joined me in calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and HHS Secretary Alex Azar to immediately explain how they will swiftly reunite children with their families. I will keep fighting until all of the children are back with their families.

 


Visiting Detainees in Oregon

The day before Father’s Day, I visited a federal prison in Oregon where 123 immigrant men are incarcerated. What I saw shook me to my core. It harkened back to some of the ugliest parts of our country’s history, when people were interned, imprisoned, or persecuted because of their race or national origin.

The men I met came to the United States seeking asylum because they experienced horrific violence or persecution in their home countries. One man we spoke with came here with his wife and two children, ages five and 18 months. They were separated at the border, and he did not know where they were. 

Many of the detainees in Sheridan are from India, where their Sikh or Christian faith meant they faced severe religious persecution. They came to the United States for religious freedom, but instead they are now incarcerated in a federal prison.

  

Legislation

If the president and his administration won’t quickly fix this crisis they’ve created, Congress can and must act. We need to reunite children with their parents and stop the criminalization of asylum-seekers. That is why I support several pieces of legislation to address this issue:

 

  • The Keep Families Together Act (H.R. 6135), which prohibits the separation of children from their parents except in extraordinary circumstances. It limits criminal prosecutions for asylum seekers and increases child welfare training. Finally, it establishes procedures for reuniting separated families. 

     

  • The Family Unity Rights Protection Act (H.R. 6236), which would require the government to reunify separated children with their parents or an extended family member unless there is a finding of abuse or neglect. The bill also requires strong data reporting to ensure an accurate record of all children separated from their parents. Additionally, the bill prohibits the termination of parental rights without actual notice to the parents, wherever they may be.

     

  • The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act (H.R. 3923), which would reform our broken detention system by creating due process in immigration custody decisions and increasing oversight, accountability, and transparency. This legislation establishes real alternatives to detention, like the Family Case Management Program. The bill also creates a presumption of release and increases the burden of proof to detain vulnerable populations like asylum seekers, survivors of torture or gender-based violence, people with serious mental or physical illness or disability, pregnant women, and others.

 

Furthermore, the successful Family Case Management Program supported families through the asylum process without separating parents from children. It was so effective that participating families showed up for more than 99 percent of court hearings and other immigration appointments. The Trump administration eliminated the program; we can keep families together and save resources by bringing it back.  

 

Holding ICE Accountable

Even before this crisis, ICE’s practices and lack of accountability were deeply troubling. When I learned last year that ICE was detaining people outside hospitals, stationing agents in courthouses, and entering homes to make arrests without the owner’s permission, I took action. I wrote a bill to ban ICE from sensitive locations like courthouses, and I’ve been working to build support for this legislation in Congress. And last fall when Isidro Andrade-Tafolle was stopped by ICE agents and mistaken for another Latino man, I demanded that ICE stop racially profiling people and explain their harassment of Isidro. Until we can pass comprehensive immigration reform, too many Oregon families will be subjected to these tactics and the fear and uncertainty of living in the shadows.

 

   

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