Durbin Demands Trump Administration Reunite Families Torn Apart Under "Zero Tolerance" Policy By Deadline Next Week

WASHINGTON—In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today urged the Trump Administration to reunite families torn apart by President Trump’s cruel “zero tolerance” policy by the court-ordered deadline of July 26, 2018.  Durbin’s speech comes one week before the deadline.

"The ‘zero tolerance’ [policy] of the Trump Administration resulted in the Department of Homeland Security forcibly separating up to 3,000 children from their parents.  I saw some of those kids separated by that agency.  They were toddlers and infants, little babies taken from their mothers.  Toddlers, children five and six years old, separated by this agency under the president’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy,” Durbin said.  “To me, it is a stain on the reputation of this nation, one that we need to quickly resolve by reuniting these children with their families as quickly as possible.”

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee received a closed-door briefing from Trump Administration officials on their efforts to reunite families torn apart by President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.  They were informed that the government has identified at least 180 parents who have been deported without being united with their children.  The Administration said some of the 180 agreed to be deported but would not say how many.  The Administration also reported that some parents have waived their children’s rights to be held in a facility that has a state child-welfare license and to be released after 20 days. These families are now being held in DHS detention centers.  But the Administration would not say how many families are detained and would not give the senators a copy of the waiver form the parents might have signed.

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

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

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association have condemned Trump’s child separation policy.  The President of the American Academy of Pediatrics called it, “government-sanctioned child abuse.”

Three weeks ago, Durbin wrote to President Trump and called on him to immediately announce his intention to fully comply with a federal district court’s order to return children separated under his Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy to their parents within 30 days, and within 14 days for children under age five, and to regularly update Congress on his progress towards meeting the court’s deadlines.  Durbin has yet to receive a response to his letter.

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.