Durbin Blasts Trump Administration Policy Of Separating Children From Their Families At The Border

WASHINGTON—In a Senate floor speech, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today blasted the Trump Administration’s cruel policy of separating children from their parents who arrive at the Southern border of the United States seeking protection from horrific violence in the Northern Triangle region of Central America. 

In March, we learned in my office in Chicago about a seven-year-old girl and her mother, who came from the Democratic Republic of Congo…they were separated for four months,” said Durbin. I asked the DHS Inspector General to investigate this. Why would we separate a seven-year-old girl from her mom who was coming from the Congo seeking protection? Well, at the time, the Trump Administration said we don’t separate families—that was the official statement at the time. But last month Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the separation of children from their parents was a new ‘zero tolerance’ approach—and now family separation has become the official policy of the government of the United States of America. In just the first two weeks of this policy under Attorney General Sessions, 658 children have been impacted. This is a sad and cruel policy. I hope Americans across the board will stand up and speak up. We’re a better nation than this.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Durbin continued, “The Trump Administration has taken some heat, deservedly, for separating families. In typical fashion, no surprise, they’ve decided the real cause of the problem would be the Democrats. Just this morning, President Trump tweeted, ‘Separating families at the Border is the fault of bad legislation passed by the Democrats.’ But the law he’s talking about wasn’t passed by the Democrats. It is the bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and was signed into law by Republican President George W. Bush. President Trump has his facts wrong again. This law has nothing to do with separating families. Instead, it ensures the United States meets its international obligations to protect unaccompanied children seeking safe haven in our country. It was a response to concerns by Republicans and Democrats that children apprehended by the Border Patrol were being returned to countries where they might be further persecuted or killed.”

Known as the Northern Triangle, the countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have among the highest homicide rates in the world, and girls face a constant threat of sexual violence, with little protection from local authorities. This is why children and their families are taking extraordinary risks to flee to the U.S. border. More than 90 percent of unaccompanied children referred to HHS are from the three nations in the Northern Triangle. 

In March, Durbin and 23 of his Senate colleagues pressed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Inspector General to investigate allegations that DHS is separating the children of asylum-seekers from their parents. This request followed reports of the case of a seven-year-old girl and her mother from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who were separated for more than four months after they presented themselves at the U.S. border and sought protection in accordance with the law.

- 30 -