Sen. Tom Carper joined 31 of his colleagues in the House and Senate to introduce legislation to keep immigrant families together by preventing the Department of Homeland Security 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, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Children’s Law Center and the Young Center for Immigrant Rights.
On May 7, 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, resulted in parents being separated from their children. Prosecuting individuals who are seeking asylum may also violate the U.S.’s obligations under international law, including the U.N. convention on refugees and its protocol. At a May 24 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.