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May 30, 2018

Thompson, Vela Demand Protection of Children at the Border

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, announced they have transmitted three letters to the Trump Administration aimed to ensure the safety and security of children at the border. The Administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy towards border crossers will dramatically increase the number of children in the government’s care in an already strained system. News reports today indicate this is already the case

Ranking Members Thompson and Vela sent letters to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement to oppose the Administration’s de facto policy of separating families at the border and to request more data regarding their departments’ custody and treatment of children.  According to a report published by the New York Times, more than 700 children have been separated from their parents by CBP since October 2017, including more than 100 children under the age of four. 

Ranking Members Thompson and Vela also sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General requesting his office investigate how CBP operates to ensure it follows relevant laws and department policies regarding the treatment of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) in its custody and the conditions of the facilities in which UACs are detained. A recent ACLU report indicated that CBP was not following numerous laws in its past handling of children at the border. 

Congressman Thompson released the following statement:

“Forcibly separating children from their parents is cruel, abhorrent, and incompatible with the values we cherish as a country. President Trump’s new zero tolerance policy will undoubtedly have far reaching consequences – including inflicting trauma on children and putting greater stress on an already strained system.  The well-being of children must be our paramount consideration. Policy and laws governing child safety and protection are not ‘loopholes’ that can be ignored.  They must always be followed. For Congress to do its job, we need to know how many families are affected by this heartless policy and if the law is being properly followed.”

Congressman Vela added the following statement:

“The well-being of children is of the utmost importance. We have a basic duty to ensure that children remain close to their families and that when they are in the care of the government, that they are not released to abusive environments. As such, I have serious concerns about this Administration’s zero tolerance policy and its effect on the separation of families at the border and on the development of those children who are indeed separated from their parents. Congress needs to know the concrete impact of this policy.  That is why I am asking for information on how many families have been separated and how many children are being effectively turned into unaccompanied children and referred to Health and Human Services. Increasing reports about the mistreatment of unaccompanied children and the ineffective tracking of children released from HHS’ care is deeply troubling and only magnifies the urgent need for this information.”

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Media contact: Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978