Carper Joins Senate, House Colleagues to Introduce Legislation to Halt Separation of Immigrant Families

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, joined 31of his colleagues in the House and Senate to introduce legislation to keep immigrant families together by preventing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from taking children from their parents at the border. The Keep Families Together Act was developed in consultation with child welfare experts to ensure the federal government is acting in the best interest of children. The bill is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Children’s Law Center and the Young Center for Immigrant Rights.

The bill is also supported by Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and  Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

“Matthew 25 calls to care for the least among us, including welcoming strangers in our land. This Administration, however, is callously choosing to enforce a policy that not only targets vulnerable migrants who are fleeing unspeakable violence in their home countries, but also inflicts further trauma by separating children from their parents,” said Senator Carper. “This is a completely unacceptable policy in any nation, let alone one that has, for centuries, led the world by example. It is unprecedented, it is cruel, it is entirely unnecessary and it must stop. The legislation I have introduced with my House and Senate colleagues would keep families from being needlessly ripped apart, which is, without a question, the right and humane thing to do.”

On May 7, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that all adults who arrive at the border would be prosecuted for illegal entry, even if they attempt to seek asylum. This policy, which has never before been pursued, has resulted in parents being separated from their children. Prosecuting individuals who are seeking asylum may also violate the United States’ obligations under international law, including the U.N. convention on refugees and its Protocol. At a May 24, 2018, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Customs and Border Protection informed the committee that 658 children were taken from 638 parents during a 14-day period in May, an average of 47 children being taken from their parents each day.

To ensure the bill protects the welfare of children, it allows children to be separated from their parents only in the event they are being trafficked or abused by their parents. To provide an additional layer of protection, the bill provides for an immediate review by a superior upon the recommendation to separate, and imposes a fine on any individuals who knowingly separate children from their parents in order to deter asylum seekers.