6/11/2018 — 

PROVIDENCE, RI – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse are joining with Rhode Islanders in calling on the Trump Administration to end its policy choice of involuntarily separating children from their migrant mothers and fathers at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Senators Reed and Whitehouse highlighted that no law requires migrant families be separated at the border, and child welfare experts like pediatricians have argued that President Trump’s policy of doing so can have harmful, long-term health and emotional consequences for children. 

Today, Reed and Whitehouse met with community leaders, pediatricians, and immigration advocates at the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island to discuss the issue.  Dorcas International is the largest and longest-running legal immigration service in Rhode Island and provides support to immigrants and refugees throughout the state.

Reed and Whitehouse are teaming up with U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on new legislation that would keep asylum-seeking families together, and prevent the Department of Homeland Security from taking children from their parents at the border. The Keep Families Together Act would only permit the Department to separate families under a court order or to protect a child from serious harm.

“The Trump Administration’s policy of systematically separating immigrant families is costly, ineffective, and deliberately cruel.  This approach, which seems to be implemented in an uneven and ad hoc manner, is directly at odds with core American values.  It inflicts immeasurable trauma on immigrant children and accomplishes nothing positive.  Indeed, according to DHS, the number of immigrants apprehended between ports of entry actually increased last month,” said Senator Reed.  “Some of these kids who are too young to even speak are being kept away from their parents for months on end.  This is an unjust and unsustainable policy.  Our bill would help put a stop the Trump Administration’s immoral decision to try and use family separation as a blunt instrument.”

“The Trump administration's policy of separating even very small children from their parents who come seeking asylum is fundamentally un-American.  President Trump should immediately end this policy,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “As pediatricians point out, this separation is known to inflict trauma on these little children. Instead, we should be working toward bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform.”

“This inhumane separation of children from their loved ones at the southern border has to stop.  Families should not be separated as a way to deter illegal immigration into the U.S.  These are real people who should be treated as such,” said Kathleen Cloutier, Executive Director of Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians have expressed opposition to the Trump Administration’s decision to separate families, acknowledging that the U.S. government has the right to control who enters its borders, but, as the American College of Physicians stated: “a policy of universally separating children from their parents entering U.S. borders will do great harm to children, their parents, and their families.”  While the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that separating children from parents: “contradicts everything we stand for as pediatricians — protecting and promoting children’s health.  In fact, highly stressful experiences can cause irreparable harm, disrupting a child's brain architecture and affecting his or her short and long-term health.”

The Keep Families Together Act 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.

Last week, Reed and Whitehouse joined with 38 of their Senate colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump, urging him to reverse course on this inhumane policy, stressing the need to prioritize widely accepted standards of care that prioritize keeping children and families together whenever possible.

Senators Reed and Whitehouse say Congress needs to take bipartisan action to protect children as well vote on bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform proposals, which have won significant bipartisan votes in the past.