Amendment to Bar Family Separations Passes Senate Appropriations Committee

Washington, Sept. 30, 2019Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) today released the following statement after the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously adopted an amendment that they offered last week to ban the Trump administration’s practice of family separation at our borders:

            “I have repeatedly called for an end to family separations and I’m pleased the Appropriations Committee voted on a bipartisan basis to condemn this policy. We must pass my Keep Families Together Act to ensure this practice is ended once and for all,” said Feinstein. “Separations should only occur when a parent poses a clearly defined, specific danger to the child. I look forward to putting safeguards for children and a ban on the cruel, needless separation of families at the border into law.”

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            “On President Trump’s watch, we have an unprecedented humanitarian crisis at our southern border, with overcrowded and inhumane conditions at detention centers.  One of the worst episodes in this humanitarian crisis was when the Trump Administration separated thousands of children from their parents, and left them adrift in a bureaucratic sea,” Durbin said. “I’m glad the Senate Appropriations Committee was able to come together on a bipartisan basis and ensure that no funds in this bill will be used to support this abhorrent policy.”

Background

  • The amendment would prohibit the Department of Homeland Security(DHS) from separating families at the border except where a state court terminates the rights of a parent or legal guardian; where a state or county child welfare official makes a determination that separation is in the child’s best interest; or where separation is authorized by the Port Director or the Chief Border Patrol agent.
  • Homeland Security Appropriations Chairman Shelley Moore Capito offered an additional provision to clarify that the family separation bar is consistent with the agreement between the ACLU and DHS in Ms. L v. ICE.
  • The amendment also bars family separations solely for the policy goal of deterring individuals from migrating to the United States or for the policy goal of promoting compliance with civil immigration laws.
  • Earlier this year, Senator Feinstein introduced the Keep Families Together Act, to prevent the Department of Homeland Security from taking children from their parents at the border. The amendment adopted by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week is based on that legislation.