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House Democrats Gather in Front of U.S. Capitol to Introduce Keep Families Together Act, Legislation to End Family Separation at the Border

Washington, DC, June 20, 2018

Today, House Democrats, led by House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), held a press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol to introduce the Keep Families Together Act, H.R. 6135, legislation to end family separation at the U.S. border. H.R. 6135 is the House companion to legislation introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Diane Feinstein (D-CA) earlier this month. More than 190 House Democrats cosponsored the legislation. In addition to Rep. Nadler, original House cosponsors of the legislation include: Subcommittee on Immigration Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Rep. Ted W. Lieu (D-CA), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and House Democratic leadership.

Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler: “President Trump and his Administration have implemented a heartless, cruel, and dangerous policy of separating families who arrive in the United States seeking asylum.  They see children as bargaining chips, and as pawns in service of their anti-immigrant mission. They continue to lie about this policy, by claiming that they are forced, by law, to rip children from the arms of their parents. The truth is the President could stop this policy today.  But he has only doubled down on what amounts to government-sponsored child abuse.  The Keep Families Together Act does what this administration won’t do, by including a variety of measures to prevent children from being separated from their parents. I’m proud to be joined by more than 190 House Democrats in introducing the Keep Families Together Act and urge my Republican colleagues to stand on the right side of history by supporting this legislation.”

Subcommittee on Immigration Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren: “The United States has been a beacon of freedom for a long time. But the Trump Administration’s so-called “Zero Tolerance” policy of separating children from their parents is a stain on that legacy. It is immoral, cruel, and abusive to children. People with a legitimate fear of persecution have a right under U.S. law to present their case for asylum. That is not a violation of immigration law - that is part of immigration law.”

Rep. Luis Gutierrez: “Being as mean and nasty to asylum-seekers and immigrants as they can be is an election year strategy for Republicans to energize their base.  We have to continually remind the President and his henchmen that they are scarring the lives of actual human beings, children and infants just for their personal political gain.”

Rep. Ted Lieu: “The Trump-driven policy of separating families at the border is inhumane and un-American. Like the President’s grandfather, my parents—to use Trump’s own phrasing—‘infested’ America. As their son, as a Member of Congress and as a proud American, I get the chance to fight for human decency. That’s what Reps. Nadler, Lofgren, Gutierrez, Jayapal, Panetta and I are pushing for with our ‘Keep Families Together Act’. Trump’s family separation policy runs counter to everything our country stands for and we’ll do everything in our power to stop it.  Trump has claimed to need Congressional action to end the separation of parents from their children, an unimaginably cruel policy that he created. Well, here it is. I urge my GOP colleagues to move quickly to pass this bill because their inaction means families and children will continue to suffer.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal: “Donald Trump has dragged our democracy to its lowest point. Tearing kids from their parents at the border and throwing them in tent cities and cages is cruel beyond words. Family separation is child abuse and a violation of human rights, full stop. Trump created this crisis. He has to take responsibility for it and fix it, but since he hasn’t, we in Congress will pass the Keep Families Together Act to make sure our government never participates in this horror again. For parents, for children, for families—we can and must do better.”

Rep. Jimmy Panetta: “The Administration’s new 'zero-tolerance' policy purposefully separates mothers, fathers, and children without any reunification plan. This disheartening policy demeans what we stand for and who we are as a nation. Intentionally separating children from their parents to deter immigration, punish asylum seekers, or leverage resources for a border wall is vindictive and wrong. Past Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had the option to needlessly separate families at the border, but they also had the compassion and common-sense not to implement this type of policy. Democrats and Republicans are calling for the Administration to end this compassionless policy. However, given Executive inaction, Congress must work together and take a stand. That is why my colleagues and I are introducing the Keep Families Together Act, to protect children from being needlessly separated from their parents.”

The Keep Families Together Act prevents separation at the border and aids asylum seekers by:

  • Prohibiting DHS officials from separating children from their parents, except in limited and extraordinary circumstances, such as the termination of parental rights, a best interest determination by a child welfare agency, or indications of trafficking.
  • Deferring illegal entry and reentry criminal prosecutions for asylum seekers as recommended by the DHS Office of Inspector General and creating an affirmative defense for asylum seekers.
  • Establishing a policy preference for family unity, discourages the separation of siblings, and creates a presumption that detention is not in the best interests of families and children.
  • Increasing child welfare training by requiring all CBP officers and agents to complete training on an annual basis.
  • Adding procedures for separated families to locate each other and reunite.

The House version of the Keep Families Together Act is endorsed by the ACLU, Kids in Need of Defense, Human Rights First, Washington Office on Latin America, Women's Refugee Commission, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Latin American Working Group, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, New York Immigration Coalition, Third Way, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, Indivisible, Public Counsel’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, MomsRising, America’s Voice, Legal Aid Justice Center, Al Otro Lado, Amnesty International USA, Anti-Defamation League, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, UnidosUS, Hispanic Federation, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Church World Service, Main Street Alliance, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, Kino Border Initiative, National Immigrant Justice Center, The Children’s Partnership, SchoolHouse Connection, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Hispanic Leadership Agenda and more.

The Keep Families Together Act fact sheet is available here.


Trump Administration Continues to Lie about Family Separation

President Donald Trump is lying when he says family separation is required by the laws on the books.  As fact-checkers at the Washington Post and elsewhere have concluded, there is simply NO law that requires family separation.  What is causing children to be taken from their parents is the deliberate choice—the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy—to prosecute asylum seeking families at the border for illegal entry. 

Speaker Ryan’s Immigration Bill Does Not End Family Separation

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s so-called compromise bill would not end family separation or limit the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” prosecution policy.  In lieu of family separation, the bill authorizes prolonged family detention.  The bill specifically overrides the Flores settlement agreement, and various Federal court orders, that limit how long children can be held in immigration-related custody.  By overriding the Flores agreement, the bill also eliminates decades of court-ordered protections on how children may be housed and treated by the Federal government.


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