In a pair of letters on Thursday, Democrats from both the House and Senate demanded the Trump administration immediately end its policy of tearing migrant children away from their parents at the U.S. border, a practice that has provoked nationwide protests and which human rights advocates across the globe have denounced as "cruel" and "evil."
"Family separation re-traumatizes parents and children escaping harrowing danger, and it ignores the reality that many of these parents and children have valid claims for relief."
—111 U.S. House Democrats
Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Bennie G. Thompson (Miss.), and Zoe Lofgren (Calif.)—joined by 108 of their congressional colleagues—sent a letter to the top two members of the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security on Appropriations to urge them to bar the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from using future appropriated funding to enforce the "inhumane" policy.
"Many parents arrive at our borders with their children to seek protection—a lawful act," the letter notes. "Family separation re-traumatizes parents and children escaping harrowing danger, and it ignores the reality that many of these parents and children have valid claims for relief." The Trump administration's "misguided attempt to reduce these numbers" through this policy, it declares, is "destined to fail."
The letter emphasizes that "the solution to the cruel inhumanity of family separation cannot be the alternative—and costly—cruelty of family detention," especially considering that even DHS has concluded that "it is never in the best interests of a child to be detained because of immigration status."
In addition to their demand that the forthcoming DHS appropriations bill explicity restrict the agency from using congressional funds to carry out the family separation policy, the letter also requests funding to restore the now-terminated Family Case Management Program as an alternative to detention.
BREAKING: I am leading 108 colleagues with @BennieGThompson and @RepZoeLofgren to demand that Congress STOP FUNDING the Department of Homeland Security's abusive family separation practices. #KeepFamiliesTogether pic.twitter.com/B0dWPNqUfJ
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) June 7, 2018
Meanwhile, in the Senate, 38 Democrats and both Independents, led by Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), sent a letter directly to President Donald Trump to pressure him to walk back the policy, pointing out that it "has lasting, harmful, and traumatizing impacts" on the detained children.
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"This policy has traumatized children who are fleeing extreme violence," the senators' letter states. "These separations have been shown to increase anxiety and depression among children that have already experienced significant trauma in their home countries and along their journey to the United States."
The senators also encourage the administration to consider "community-based alternatives to detentions programs, like intensive case management and referrals to social services and legal resources," concluding with a request that the president "rescind this unethical, ineffective, and inhumane policy and instead prioritize approaches that align with our humanitarian and American values."
Today, I led 39 of our Democratic colleagues in demanding @realDonaldTrump and his admin stop further traumatizing children and end their new inhumane policy of separating innocent children from families who cross the Southwest border seeking asylum. #KeepFamiliesTogether pic.twitter.com/c3H4ZSeJLW
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) June 7, 2018
The letters come after Wyden's fellow senator from Oregon, Democrat Jeff Merkley, tried on Sunday to visit a Texas facility where "hundreds" of migrant children are reportedly being detained. While the detention center's staff blocked Merkley from entering and called the police, the senator's efforts, which he shared with constituents via a Facebook video, were widely praised by immigrant right advocates.
Merkley, who signed Senate Democrats' letter to Trump, has repeatedly turned to social media in recent days to denounce the administration's "child-snatching" policy, tweeting at the president on Tuesday, "It is morally bankrupt and absolutely destructive to traumatize children as a strategy to influence their parents."
No, @realDonaldTrump, that’s a lie. Your Administration’s child-snatching “Zero Tolerance” policy is a ZERO HUMANITY policy, inflicting pain and trauma on children. It is morally bankrupt and absolutely destructive to traumatize children as a strategy to influence their parents. https://t.co/mtaEqHzfL8
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) June 5, 2018