WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today responded to a letter from members of the House of Delegates that asked Virginia’s congressional delegation to oppose the Trump Administration’s policy of separating immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
On June 20, 47 members of the Virginia House of Delegates wrote to all 13 members of Virginia’s bipartisan congressional delegation to express outrage at the cruel and systematic separation of immigrant children and their families at the U.S. border with Mexico, saying, “As Virginians and Americans, we are appalled at the suffering that has been caused. President Trump initiated this shameful Administration policy. It is within his power to stop it. Once again, if you have not already done so, we ask you to act swiftly and call upon the President to end this brutal policy and reunite these children with their families without delay.”
The Senators’ response to that letter is here and below:
Thank you for your letter urging the Virginia congressional delegation to support the end of the Trump Administration’s family separation policy at the U.S. border with Mexico. We appreciate your leadership on this issue and share your outrage over this policy.
Migrants who arrive at the southern border have the right to claim asylum and refuge from persecution in their home countries as specified under U.S. and international law. However, in April 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump Administration would implement a so-called “zero-tolerance” policy that subjects migrants who enter the country unlawfully to criminal prosecution. This policy separates families by sending parents to federal detention and their children to facilities run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, effectively leading to large increases in the number of unaccompanied children detained at the border.
We believe this heartless treatment of migrants and asylum seekers does not reflect the values of this nation. Immigrants bring a diversity of experience, culture and backgrounds but also a common vision of living the American Dream and creating a better life in the United States. We are a nation of immigrants, and they are part of what makes this country great. That’s why we are grateful that so many Virginians have joined us and people all across the country in speaking out against the cruel and pointless policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border.
On June 7, we joined 38 of our Senate Democratic colleagues in a letter strongly condemning the Administration’s family separation policy and urging President Trump to reverse it. That same day, we joined Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and a number of our Senate colleagues in introducing the Keep Families Together Act of 2018 (S.3036). This legislation prohibits the separation of families at the border or at ports of entry except under extraordinary circumstances, increases child welfare training for Customs and Border Protection officers, establishes a policy preference for family unity, and develops procedures to allow families to relocate and reunite with their separated loved ones. We also joined 46 other Senators in calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on the Trump Administration’s treatment of children along the southern border.
Additionally, on June 19, we wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar requesting details about the policy’s rationale, the condition of facilities used by their agencies to house children, the availability and quality of resources for separated children, the conditions for girls and toddlers, and the process in place for family reunification.
Seeking to address the crisis he created, President Trump signed an executive order on June 20, directing DHS to detain immigrant families together. However, this executive order did not outline a process for reuniting previously separated children with their families, nor did the order change the Administration’s zero tolerance prosecution policy that will result in lengthy detention for families. Furthermore, because a court order prohibits the detention of migrant children beyond 20 days, the legality of the executive order remains questionable. These inadequacies make a response from Secretaries Nielsen and Azar to our letter all the more urgent. The Trump Administration must provide full transparency about its plans to ensure the safety, well-being and reunification of every single child in custody. Until the day that happens, we will continue to demand answers.
We hope there will be a swift resolution to this entirely preventable crisis that has caused pain to so many immigrant families. But the truth is, until Congress enacts comprehensive, long-term immigration reform, immigrant families and young people will continue to suffer from the effects of a broken system that forces far too many of our friends and neighbors into the shadows. Under our current President, the urgency of this problem has grown exponentially. We are proud to have been a part of every bipartisan effort in the Senate to reform our immigration process, and we have not given up hope that someday soon, enough of our colleagues in the House and Senate will understand the importance of fixing our immigration system once and for all.
Thank you again for contacting us. We look forward to our continued collaboration in promoting the wellbeing of immigrant families entering our country.
Mark R. Warner
United States Senator
United States Senator