Bill introduced in Congress To Block Trump's Cruel Family-separation Regime

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Rep. Karen Bass

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) has joined more than 100 of her colleagues in introducing the Keep Families Together Act of 2018 in response to the Trump administration’s insidious practice of family separation. This bill has also been introduced in the Senate by Senator Diane Feinstein of California.

“The separation of immigrant families is a violation of human rights,” Bass, top Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Global Human Rights, said. “A civilized country should never levy lifelong trauma as a deterrent to immigrants seeking asylum, let alone defenseless children. Now, as the President of the United States uses these traumatized children and parents as collateral for his border wall, it is absolutely imperative that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle stand up to this inhumane practice and pass this piece of legislation.”

The Keep Families Together Act of 2018 would prohibit border officials from separating children from their parents, except in extraordinary circumstances, restrict the prosecution of parents who are asylum seekers by adopting the recommendation of the DHS Office of Inspector General, and require all CBP officers and agents to complete child welfare training on an annual basis.

The bill promotes family unity by prohibiting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials from separating children from their parents, except in extraordinary circumstances.

In these limited circumstances, separation could not occur unless parental rights have been terminated, a child welfare agency has issued a best interest determination, or the Port Director or the Chief Border Patrol agent of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have approved separation due to trafficking indicators or other concerns of risk to the child.

It requires an independent child welfare official to review any such separation and return the child if no harm to the child is present. It imposes financial penalties on officials who violate the prohibition on family separation.

The majority of the parents separated at the border are being criminally prosecuted for illegal entry or re-entry. This bill restricts the prosecution of parents who are asylum seekers by adopting the recommendation of the DHS Office of Inspector General. The bill delays prosecutions for asylum seekers and creates an affirmative defense for asylum seekers. It also codifies our commitment to the Refugee protocol prohibiting the criminal punishment of those seeking protection from persecution.

The bill requires all CBP officers and agents to complete child welfare training on an annual basis. Port Directors and Chief Border Agents, those who are authorized to make decisions on family separations, must complete an additional 90 minutes of annual child-welfare training.

The bill establishes a 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.

The bill requires DHS to develop policies and procedures allowing parents and children to locate each other and reunite if they have been separated. Such procedures must be public and made available in a language that parents can understand. In cases of separation, it requires DHS to provide parents with a weekly report containing information about a child, and weekly phone communication.

In order to inform Congressional oversight and promote public understanding of the use family separation, the bill requires a report on the separation of families every six months.

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