Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) are sounding the alarm after President Donald Trump threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border to stop immigrant families from crossing the southwest border, no matter the economic impact. 

“Despite being thousands of miles away from the Southern border, Virginia has a lot to lose economically if we close our doors to one of our greatest trade partners,” said the Senators. “Mexico is one of Virginia’s most important agricultural customers, purchasing more than $111 million in exports and supporting thousands of jobs. We’ve consistently supported strategic investments in border security, but let’s be clear: closing the border altogether isn’t a viable solution. That is a reckless approach that could jeopardize thousands of jobs in Virginia, lead to increased prices for Virginia families, and wreak havoc on the Commonwealth’s economy.”

Trade with Mexico supports 133,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), Mexico is Virginia’s sixth-largest overall agricultural export market. In 2018, Mexico purchased more than $111 million in Virginia exports – a 3 percent decrease from 2017, a decline attributable in part to haphazard trade and tariff policies implemented by the Trump Administration. The pork industry alone accounted for $64 million of Virginia’s agricultural exports in 2018.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today reintroduced the Startup Act – bipartisan, cutting-edge legislation to encourage job creation, grow entrepreneurial activity, increase innovation and advance economic development.

The Startup Act would accelerate the commercialization of university research and creative inquiry that can lead to new ventures, review and improve the regulatory processes at the federal, state and local levels, and modernize a critical Economic Development Administration (EDA) program to spur economic growth and promote innovation. The widely-supported legislation also creates both entrepreneur and STEM visas for highly-educated individuals so they can remain in the United States legally to promote new ideas, fuel economic opportunity and create good-paying American jobs.

“America continues to fall behind in new business development and struggles to retain top talent that could grow our U.S. economy,” said Sen. Moran. “With a renewed sense of urgency, Congress must prioritize policies that will help recruit and retain highly-skilled students and innovators, bolster a pro-growth environment and enable entrepreneurs to transform ideas and research into companies and products – creating meaningful, good-paying jobs for Americans in the process. Thank you to Senators Mark Warner, Roy Blunt and Amy Klobuchar for continuing to prioritize this important legislation to help make certain America remains the best place in the world to bring an idea to market and grow a business.” 

“I’ve spent most of my career in the private sector so I know the importance of advancing innovation,” said Sen. Warner. “By encouraging entrepreneurship and helping attract and retain talented individuals, this bipartisan bill will help Virginia promote capital investment while boosting our economy and promoting U.S. competitiveness.”  

“To compete and succeed in a 21st Century global economy, we have to make our country the best place in the world for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses,” said Sen. Blunt. “This bill will help promote innovation and small business growth, which in turn will create more jobs and strengthen the economy. The legislation will also increase U.S. competitiveness by making sure we have the workforce we need for high-demand STEM fields. 

“Startups and small businesses are engines of job creation and economic growth,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “Our bipartisan bill would make it easier for students and innovators to get their ideas off the ground, encourage new ideas, and strengthen our workforce to keep the U.S. competitive in the 21st century economy.”

Many of the principles included in the Startup Act are based on the research and analysis by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, based in Kansas City, Mo. Kauffman research shows that immigrants to the United States are nearly twice as likely as native-born Americans to start businesses, and first-generation immigrants now make up nearly 30 percent of all new U.S. entrepreneurs.

Data shows that international students studying in the U.S. on temporary visas accounted for nearly two-fifths of all Ph.D.s in STEM fields – that number has doubled over the past three decades. Further, international doctoral students were significantly more likely than domestic students to major and earn degrees in STEM disciplines in the U.S.

The Startup Act is supported by Sprint, Garmin, the Enterprise Center of Johnson County, the Kansas City Startup Foundation, Engine, the UMKC Innovation Center, the KC Tech Council, the Internet Association, the Consumer Technology Association, CTIA, SSTI, CompTIA, the Angel Capital Association, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, National Venture Capital Association, the Center for American Enterprise and the Information Technology Industry Council. 

Full text of the bill can be found here.

 

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WASHINGTON – During a Senate Finance Committee hearing with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) pressed for more answers on an Associated Press report alleging physical and psychological abuse of immigrant children at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center (SVJC) near Staunton, Va.

Immediately following press reports regarding SVJC, Sen. Warner joined Sen. Kaine in sending a letter to Acting Assistant Secretary Steven Wagner for the Administration for Children and Families under HHS, asking for clarification and additional information from the agency on the accusations against the facility’s personnel. They still have not received a response to that letter.

“Secretary Azar, today’s hearing is about drug pricing, but first I want to address – as my colleagues have – the ongoing crisis we are dealing with at our nation's border. The Department of Health and Human Services has contracted facilities to house thousands of unaccompanied minors – including one in my state, the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center near Staunton, Virginia – where there have been very disturbing reports of abuse and lawsuits filed as a result of those accusations. Sen. Kaine and I have sent your agency multiple letters requesting more information on the issue and my hope would be that we can get those responses and I’m anxious to know if you are able to comment on any of the accusations of the center in Staunton,” pressed Sen. Warner during the hearing. 

“With reports of minors being put in solitary confinement for 23 hours of a 24 hour day or being restrained in chairs – without any clothing and with bags over their heads – all practices that are inhumane and worthy of a great deal of review – and understanding that you will not be able to speak to specifics in regard to what happened in Staunton, what level of training does the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) put in place for guards at these contracted facilities? If in fact that it shows that these actions did take place, I would hope that we can put training in place that can sanction these types of behavior,” added Sen. Warner.

During the hearing, Sec. Azar did not address the validity of the allegations but offered to provide Sen. Warner answers on the care of migrant children under HHS. HHS is tasked with caring for unaccompanied immigrant children after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) apprehends them at the U.S. border. It is also the responsibility of HHS to conduct oversight of facilities federally contracted to house detained children to ensure the safety and well-being of children under their care.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence unanimously approved the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, which includes measures introduced by the Committee’s Vice Chairman, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), to modernize our antiquated security clearance process, reduce the background investigation inventory of more than 700,000 cases, and bring greater accountability to the system. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)announced earlier this year that it added the government-wide Personnel Security Clearance Process to their High-Risk List of federal areas in need of either broad-based transformation or specific reform to prevent waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. 

“It has long been clear that the 70-year-old process that grants security clearances to government personnel and contractors is in desperate need of reform,” said Sen. Warner.  “I am pleased this bill provides a fix for this broken process and begins to ease the growing security clearance backlog that undermines the government’s ability to deploy the right people to address some of our greatest national security challenges.” 

Every year, Congress authorizes intelligence funding through the Intelligence Authorization Act to counter terrorist threats, prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, enhance counterintelligence, conduct covert actions and collect and analyze intelligence around the world. The bill reflects the intelligence committee’s oversight over the past year and its consideration of the president’s budgetary and legislative requests.

The legislation includes several provisions from Senator Warner to revamp the security clearance system, including:

  • Holding the Executive Branch accountable for making progress on much-needed reform;
  • Promoting information sharing between and among government agencies and industry to prevent personnel with security risks from being inadvertently passed around;
  • Requiring swift reciprocity for recognizing clearances among agencies;
  • Switching to a responsive Continuous Evaluation model instead of standard periodic re-investigations for 90 percent of clearance holders;
  • Requiring consistent treatment of government and contract personnel in the clearance system and setting a government-wide policy for interim clearances;
  • Expediting background investigations by taking advantage of innovative techniques and technologies for verifying information.

In addition, the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) included a provision supported by Vice Chairman Warner to require the Director of National Intelligence to report on the Intelligence Community’s outreach to U.S. businesses and other non-government entities on efforts by adversaries such as China to acquire technology, intellectual property, and R&D.

The bill also continues initiatives the Senate Intelligence Committee has undertaken on a bipartisan basis to push the Intelligence Community to foster innovation in its approach to overhead satellite systems. And as we approach the 2018 elections, the bill includes important measures to protect U.S. federal and state election systems – including from Russian threats – and to improve information sharing with states to ensure the integrity of the election process.

Sen. Warner has been a strong voice on security clearance reform, urging the White House to prioritize reforms to the clearance process. 

For the full list of the security clearance measures included in the IAA, click here.

 

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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:

 

Dear Delegate:

 

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.

 

Sincerely,

 

Mark R. Warner

United States Senator

 

Tim Kaine

United States Senator

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine wrote to the Trump Administration demanding more information after an Associated Press report indicated widespread physical and psychological abuse of immigrant children at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center (SVJC) near Staunton, Virginia. In a letter to Acting Assistant Secretary Steven Wagner for the Administration for Children and Families under the Department of Health and Human Services, Warner and Kaine outline the “appalling accusations against the facility’s personnel” and ask for clarification and additional information from the agency.

“As Americans continue to process the realities of your Administration’s immigration policies, we write with additional concerns about the treatment of immigrant children currently or previously detained in government facilities. Specifically, we seek information about allegations of widespread physical and psychological abuse at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center (SVJC) near Staunton, Virginia, “Warner and Kaine wrote. 

Their concerns are underscored by the recent influx of children now being placed in detention facilities across the country and the agency’s inability to properly care for children already in its custody. 

“As you can imagine, our concerns stem from the fact that your agency is tasked with caring for unaccompanied immigrant youths after DHS apprehends them for unlawful entry,” the Senators continued. “Though we understand that these alleged abuses took place at a locally-operated facility, your agency ultimately has oversight and must ensure that these facilities comply with standards for when and how to physically engage these youths.”

The Senators requested a personal meeting to be briefed on the situation as well as answers to the following questions:

1.) What authority dictates the standard of care facilities must provide unaccompanied minors in terms of nutrition, education, and medical attention? What does that standard require?

2) According to reports and recent Congressional testimony, in April the SVJC near Staunton, Virginia housed 34 unaccompanied children – 30 males and four females.  How many unaccompanied children referred from your agency are currently there now?

a) How long have these children been in the facility? And did any of them arrive after being separated from their families under the Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy? 

3) What is the ratio of guards to children at the Center? Do agency-specific standards mandate this ratio?

a) What is the hiring process for guards at this facility? Is this consistent with other ORR-licensed facilities?
b) What training do guards receive when they are hired, and do they continue to receive training over the course of their employment?

4) What standards govern youth’s access to bilingual staff or professional interpretation and translation services?  Does the Center have an adequate number of employees who are capable of communicating with detainees who are limited in their English proficiency?

5) Is there a system for complaints against guards or other personnel at the Center?

a) On average, how many complaints are filed against guards and other personnel?
b) How many complaints of physical or emotional abuse have you received since contracting with ORR in 2009?
c) What is the disciplinary system if guards and personnel violate these standards?

6) Does the Center provide mental health services to unaccompanied children equivalent to those provided to juveniles in detention programs for the surrounding locales? Please provide information about the current mental health staffing model.

7) What best practices or policies does your agency follow in terms of moving unaccompanied children out of secure placement and into a residential setting?

a) How many children have completed this transition at the Center?

b) Nationwide?

8) Please provide the number of children that were referred to the Center for secure placement for reasons of suspected gang affiliation or activity between:

a) April 1, 2018 and present day; 
b) January 20, 2017 and April 1, 2018; 
c) When your agency began contracting with ORR in 2009 and January 20, 2017.

Read the full letter here

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner joined Finance Committee Democrats today in demanding to know how the Trump Administration is ensuring the safety of children separated from their parents under Trump’s zero-tolerance policy and how the Administration plans to reunify children and families.

In a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar, the senators noted that many of the children separated from their families under Trump’s zero-tolerance policy are being detained in facilities operated through HHS.

“While we are encouraged the President has signed the Executive Order: Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation to stop the unnecessary and cruel separation of children from their families, by no means is this crisis over,” the Senators wrote. “Given the Finance Committee’s jurisdiction over the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the U.S. foster care system, we demand answers on how ACF will ensure the safety, well-being, and reunification of the reportedly more than 2,300 children who have been separated from their families in recent weeks.”

The Senators asked for answers by June 27, 2018. In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was signed by Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tom Carper (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Read the letter here.  

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Sen. Mark R. Warner joined 48 U.S. Senators in calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on the Trump administration’s treatment of children coming across the Southern border. 

Following yesterday’s Trump Executive Order, new questions have been raised about whether the children who have already been separated will be reunited with their families, and how children will be treated going forward.

The Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy “is responsible for hundreds of children being forcibly separated from their families, falsely labeled ‘unaccompanied alien children,’ and transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley. “This cruel treatment of children and families arriving to the United States demands immediate and direct Congressional oversight. 

In addition to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who led the letter, the letter was signed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Doug Jones (D-AL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tom Udall (D-NM), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY).

The full letter is available here and below. 

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today wrote to Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Alex Azar, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to press for more information about the Administration’s policy that separates asylum-seeking parents from their children at the U.S. border. Though the law does not require the U.S. government to separate immigrants from their children, a policy put in place by the Trump Administration in April has resulted in 2,000 children being separated from their parents by DHS officials at the border. These children “rendered unaccompanied” by forcible separation from their parents are remanded by DHS officials to HHS for care in temporary detention centers, placement with foster care, or return to their families or legal guardians. 

Today’s letter comes one day after Sec. Nielsen offered several falsehoods and incomplete answers to questions regarding the Administration’s family separation policy at a White House press briefing. Sens. Warner and Kaine today requested an immediate response to the following questions:

  • Rationale for the Policy: Secretary Nielsen stated yesterday that the policy was not implemented in order to “send a message” and serve as a deterrent to future immigration. But later that evening, Attorney General Sessions was quoted as saying, “Hopefully people will get the message…and not break across the border unlawfully.” In addition, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly stated just last month that “the name of the game is deterrence.” Can you please clarify your understanding of the rationale behind the “Zero-Tolerance Policy” as it relates to the separation of young children from the parents at the border? Can you state unequivocally that the policy is not in place to serve as a deterrent to future immigration?
  • Plan for Infrastructure: Since the announcement of the “Zero-Tolerance Policy,” how much money have DHS and HHS spent on construction of temporary facilities and associated infrastructure to house the children currently being held separate from their parents? Does a funding plan exist for the additional infrastructure necessary to house asylum seekers if the current policy continues? Are there plans to use facilities in Virginia? If so, what assurances can you provide that all facilities will be adequately equipped to provide a safe and healthy environment, including all resources necessary for the health and wellbeing (including mental and emotional) of separated children? 
  • Resources for Separated Children: What specific resources are available to children to deal with psychological trauma of being separated from their parents? How, where and by whom are these services being provided? How much does the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) spend to contract for medical and mental health care for children in ORR shelters, and how much does ORR intend to spend to provide these services to separated children? Please describe the mental health services ORR is providing or contracting to provide to separated children. Can ORR share medical records or information about mental health needs of children with DHS? What training do CBP officers receive to prepare them for interacting with traumatized children because they have been separated from their parents? What training do ORR shelters receive or provide to their staff to prepare them for interacting with traumatized children because they have been separated from their parents?
  • Conditions for Girls and Toddlers: Video footage shows the holding conditions for boys. However, there is no similar evidence showing the conditions in which girls and younger children are currently being held. Can you release additional information and video footage that provides background on the health and wellbeing of girls and toddlers who are in the care of either DHS or HHS, including the conditions of their facilities?
  • Reunification: There appears to be some conflict in how families are being reunited. DOJ has mentioned that the government does not reunite families once HHS takes custody of a child. However, DHS has claimed that once parents have served their criminal sentences, they can be reunited while they pursue their asylum claim. Are families being reunited? If so, how and when? What is the specific process which parents follow to allow for reunification with their separated children? What data does DHS have to indicate the percentage of parents who are indeed reunified with their children in a timely manner?

As the Senators noted in today’s letter, “The President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, representing 66,000 primary care pediatricians, stated that the policy and resulting trauma can cause ‘irreparable harm’ and ‘carry lifelong consequences’ for children. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the family separation policy ‘unconscionable’ and an ‘abuse.’ The General Secretary of the United Methodist Church has also stated that the policies are not consistent with Christian teaching and ‘a shocking violation of the spirit of the Gospel.’ Members of Congress from all sides of the political spectrum, former U.S. Attorneys, and countless others have all also condemned the Administration’s new policy.”

A copy of the Warner-Kaine letter is available here

Earlier this month, Sens. Warner and Kaine introduced legislation that promotes family unity by prohibiting DHS officials from separating children from their parents, except in extraordinary circumstances. In addition, the Senators have written to President Trump, urging an end to the policy of separating children from their families at the southern border.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) introduced legislation that promotes family unity by prohibiting U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials from separating children from their parents, except in extraordinary circumstances. Sens. Warner and Kaine also joined 38 of their Senate colleagues in a letter urging the Trump Administration to stop further traumatizing children and end Trump’s inhumane policy of separating innocent boys and girls from families who cross the southwest border seeking asylum in the United States.

The policy was put in place by the Trump Administration last month even though current immigration law does not require the U.S. government to separate immigrant parents from their children. Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Trump’s so-called “zero-tolerance” policy, hundreds of children have been separated from their parents and are being held in detention centers and other institutional facilities.

“Separating children from their parents at the border, many of them coming here desperate to escape the terrible violence in their countries, is a policy that is directly at odds with the fundamental values of this nation. This unprecedented and inhumane practice has been condemned by the U.N., is not rooted in any law, and could end today should President Trump choose to do so,” said Sen. Warner. “Instead, the President has used this new policy to terrorize innocent families as a means of deterring those who are legally seeking asylum in our country. In the absence of moral leadership from the White House, Congress should make it clear that the United States of America will continue to stand proud as a country welcoming of those seeking refuge from violence, poverty, and prejudice.” 

“The Trump Administration’s policies trample on American values by tearing families apart and demonizing people seeking refuge,” Sen. Kaine said. “This bill is an effort to protect kids from unnecessary harm by keeping families together and putting in place safeguards for children who have been separated from their parents.”

The Keep Families Together Act will: 

·         Keep families together: 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.

·         Increase Child Welfare Training: 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 authorized to make decisions on family separations, must complete an additional 90 minutes of annual child-welfare training.

·         Establish public policy preference for family reunification: 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.

·         Implement procedures for Separated Families: 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.

·         Establish other required measures: In order to inform Congressional oversight and promote public understanding of the use family separation, the bill requires an annual report on the separation of families. Additionally, the bill requires the GAO examine the prosecution of asylum seekers.

Separately, in a letter to President Trump signed by 40 Senators, Sens. Warner and Kaine urged the Administration to stop the policy of separating children from their families at the southern border. The letter echoes the message of more than 540 state and national child development, child welfare and juvenile justice groups from all 50 states that sent a similar letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen. Citing the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Senators stressed the short- and long-term damage to these children from being unnecessarily separated from their families.

“We are writing to ask that you reverse course on your inhumane decision to separate children from their parents at the border,” the Senators said in a letter to Trump. “This policy has traumatized children who are fleeing extreme violence. Our government has a humanitarian duty to the children and families seeking asylum in the United States to end this policy immediately.”

The Senators underscored that the Administration’s cruel and unnecessary separations run counter to widely accepted standards of care that prioritize keeping children and families together whenever possible. 

“Best practices in child welfare promote keeping children and their parents together unless removal is in the child’s best interest,” the Senators added.“Unnecessarily separating more children from their parents will further exacerbate the lack of home-based foster care placements available and increase the use of large-capacity institutional settings, such as abandoned military bases, to house these children.”

Joining Sens. Warner and Kaine on the letter were Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tom Udall (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

To read the text of the bill, click here. Read the full text of the letter here. 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine joined 23 Senators today in sending a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan urging them to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduran Nationals, which is set to expire on July 5, 2018.  

“Ending TPS for Hondurans would force more than 86,031 individuals to go back to a country with severe security challenges. We are also concerned that the Honduran government lacks the capacity to facilitate their return, which would make it difficult to ensure their protection,” wrote the Senators.  “More importantly, we are extremely concerned about the more than 53,500 U.S. born children who would have to accompany their TPS beneficiary parents and who would be vulnerable to recruitment by gangs in Honduras.”

The Senators noted that in recent years, the United States has increased cooperation with Central American governments, including the Honduran government, in order to address the underlying factors driving migration in the region. Through foreign assistance and diplomatic engagement, the United States has made significant investments to support security, economic development and stability in Central America. The Senators conclude by saying that a decision by the Trump Administration to end TPS designation for Honduras would “threaten the very stability we seek to achieve in Central America and would undermine our foreign policy objectives there.”

Warner and Kaine have been leading voices in Congress on the importance of protecting TPS recipients who are living in the U.S. after being displaced by dangerous conditions in their home countries. Virginia is home to thousands of TPS recipients.

 

A copy of the letter can be found here and below. 

 

The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen                              The Honorable John Sullivan                       

Secretary of Homeland Security                              Acting Secretary of State

U.S. Department of Homeland Security                             U.S. Department of State

3801 Nebraska Avenue NW                                                    2201 C St. NW

Washington, DC 20016                                              Washington, DC 20520

 

Dear Secretary Nielsen and Acting Secretary Sullivan:

 

We write to urge you to extend the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Honduras, which is set to expire on July 5, 2018. Since its inception, TPS has permitted the United States to offer humanitarian protection to foreign nationals who are unable to return to the dire conditions in their homeland.

 

In considering the extension of TPS designation for Honduras, we encourage you to consider the unique conditions in the country, which provide a clear basis for TPS extension in accordance with the law. Although TPS was initially made available for Hondurans after Hurricane Mitch ravaged the country in 1998, successive Republican and Democratic administrations have considered its lasting effects as well as subsequent security challenges. 

 

In 2016, the people of Honduras were victims of 5,150 murders, a rate of approximately 59 murders per 100,000 people – one of the highest in the world.[1]In addition, Honduras has one of the highest rates of femicide in the world,[2] and according to the Center for Women’s Rights, a woman was murdered every 14 hours in 2012.[3]  Hondurans face threats from street gangs, which are widespread and prey on small businesses and families through extortion. Endemic corruption and weak rule of law fuel impunity and exacerbate the security challenges. Beyond the epidemic levels of violence, more than two thirds of the Honduran population live in poverty and, in rural areas, 20 percent of Hondurans live on less than $2 a day.[4]

 

Ending TPS for Hondurans would force more than 86,031 individuals to go back to a country with severe security challenges. We are also concerned that the Honduran government lacks the capacity to facilitate their return, which would make it difficult to ensure their protection. More importantly, we are extremely concerned about the more than 53,500[5] U.S. born children who would have to accompany their TPS beneficiary parents and who would be vulnerable to recruitment by gangs in Honduras.

 

In recent years, the United States has increased cooperation with Central American governments, including the Honduran government, in order to address the underlying factors driving migration in the region. Through foreign assistance and diplomatic engagement, the United States has made significant investments to support security, economic development and stability in Central America. A decision to end TPS designation for Honduras would threaten the very stability we seek to achieve in Central America and would undermine our foreign policy objectives there.

 

In closing, we urge you to consider the critical conditions in Honduras and the destabilizing effects that terminating this TPS designation would entail. Thank you for your consideration of this important issue. We look forward to your response.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

WARNER, KAINE Y COLEGAS URGEN A LA ADMINISTRACIÓN DE PROLONGAR EL PROGRAMA DE TPS PARA HONDUREÑOS

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Hoy, los senadores Mark Warner y Tim Kaine (ambos demócratas de Virginia), junto con 23 senadores, enviaron una carta a la Secretaria de Seguridad Nacional (DHS) Kirstjen Nielsen y el Secretario interino del Departamento de Estado, John Sullivan, pidiéndoles que prolonguen la designación de Estatus de Protección Temporal (TPS) para ciudadanos hondureños, el cual expira el 5 de julio de 2018.

 

“Eliminar TPS para hondureños forzará a más de 86,031 personas a regresar a un país con graves deficiencias en seguridad. También nos preocupa que el gobierno hondureño no tiene suficiente capacidad para facilitar su regreso, el cual podría ser difícil de garantizar su seguridad y protección,” escribieron los senadores. “Estamos extremamente preocupados por los más de 53,500 niños estadounidenses quienes tendrían que acompañar a sus padres los cuales son beneficiarios de TPS y que serían vulnerables de ser reclutados por pandillas en Honduras.”

 

Los senadores notaron que, en los últimos años, los Estados Unidos han aumentado cooperación con los gobiernos centroamericanos, incluyendo el gobierno de Honduras, para resolver los factores fundamentales que ha aumentado inmigración en la región. A través de asistencia extranjera y la política exterior ofrecida por los Estados Unidos, nuestro país ha podido hacer inversiones significativas para apoyar la seguridad, desarrollo económico y estabilidad en Centro América. Concluyendo, los senadores notaron que la decisión de la administración de eliminar la designación de TPS para Honduras podría “amenazar la misma estabilidad que queremos lograr en Centro América y quebrantaría nuestra habilidad de ejecutar una política exterior.”

 

Warner y Kaine han sido líderes en el Congreso sobre la importancia de proteger beneficiarios de TPS quienes viven en los Estados Unidos debido a las condiciones peligrosas de sus tierras natales. El estado de Virginia es el hogar de miles de beneficiarios de TPS.

 

 

La copia de la carta esta abajo:

 

 

 

La Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen                            El Honorable John Sullivan                       

Secretaria de Seguridad Nacional                        Secretario Interino del Departamento de Estado

Departamento de Seguridad Nacional                 Departamento de Estado

3801 Nebraska Avenue NW                                2201 C St. NW

Washington, DC 20016                                       Washington, DC 20520

 

 

Queridos Secretaria Kirstjen Nielson y Secretario Interino John Sullivan:

 

Les escribimos para urgir a la administración que prolonguen la designación de Estatus de Protección Temporal (TPS) para Honduras, el cual expira el 5 de julio de 2018. Desde su inicio, TPS ha permitido a los Estados Unidos ofrecer protección humanitaria a ciudadanos extranjeros que no pueden volver a las terribles condiciones en su tierra natal.

 

Al considerar la extensión de la designación de TPS para Honduras, les alentamos considerar las condiciones únicas en el país, que proporcionan una base clara para la extensión de TPS de acuerdo con la ley. Aunque TPS se puso inicialmente a disposición de los hondureños después de que el huracán Mitch devastó el país en 1998, las administraciones anteriores republicanas y demócratas han considerado sus efectos duraderos y los posteriores desafíos de seguridad.

 

En 2016, ciudadanos de Honduras fueron víctima de 5,150 asesinatos, una tasa de aproximadamente 59 asesinatos por cada 100,000 personas, una de las más altas del mundo. [1] Además, Honduras tiene una de las tasas más altas de femicidio en el mundo, [2] y según el Centro para los Derechos de la Mujer, una mujer en cada 14 horas fue asesinada en 2012. [3] Los hondureños se enfrentan a las amenazas de las pandillas callejeras, que están muy extendidas y se aprovechan de las pequeñas empresas y las familias a través de la extorsión. La corrupción endémica y el débil estado de derecho alimentan la impunidad y exacerban los desafíos de seguridad. Más allá de los niveles epidémicos de violencia, más de dos tercios de la población hondureña viven en la pobreza y, en las zonas rurales, el 20 por ciento de los hondureños viven con menos de $2 al día. [4]

 

Eliminar el TPS para los hondureños obligaría a más de 86,031 personas a regresar a un país con graves problemas de seguridad. También nos preocupa que el gobierno hondureño no tiene suficiente capacidad para facilitar su regreso, el cual podría ser difícil de garantizar su seguridad y protección. Más importante aún, estamos extremadamente preocupados por los más de 53,500 [5] niños estadounidenses que tendrían que acompañar a sus padres los cuales son beneficiarios de TPS y que serían vulnerables de ser reclutados por pandillas en Honduras.

 

En los últimos años, los Estados Unidos han aumentado cooperación con los gobiernos centroamericanos, incluyendo el gobierno de Honduras, para resolver los subyacentes factores que ha aumentado inmigración en la región. A través de asistencia extranjera y la política exterior ofrecida por los Estados Unidos, nuestro país ha podido hacer inversiones significativas para apoyar la seguridad, desarrollo económico y estabilidad en Centro América. La decisión de eliminar con la designación de TPS para Honduras amenazaría la misma estabilidad que queremos lograr en Centro América y quebrantaría nuestra habilidad de ejecutar una política exterior.

 

Para concluir, a les pedimos que consideren las condiciones críticas en Honduras y los efectos desestabilizadores que conllevaría la eliminación de esta designación de TPS. Gracias por su consideración de este importante tema. Esperamos su respuesta.

 

Sinceramente,

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after the Senate failed to advance bipartisan legislation to protect young immigrants known as Dreamers:

 

“I’m extremely disappointed that our reasonable, bipartisan compromise failed to garner the 60 votes needed to move forward. I will continue to work with my colleagues to protect the Dreamers, who know no other home but America.” 

 

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Click HERE to read the text of the amendment

Washington, D.C. — A bipartisan group of 16 Senators unveiled legislation this evening to protect “Dreamers” and to strengthen border security.  The Senators are part of the Common Sense Coalition, a group of 25 Republican, Democratic, and Independent Senators convened by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), who have been meeting nearly every day in Senator Collins’ office to develop a framework to address Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and other immigration issues.

The lead sponsors of the legislation are Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Angus King (I-ME), and the original cosponsors include Senators: Collins, Manchin, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

“This is a bipartisan solution that will provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers whose status in this country was left in limbo when the administration announced it was ending the DACA program,” said Senator Warner.  “This amendment certainly isn’t perfect, but I believe it is a suitable compromise and the best path forward for the Senate to advance legislation on this critical issue.”

“Our bipartisan proposal takes meaningful steps to enhance border security, adds limits to chain migration and permanently deals with DACA recipients,” said Senator Rounds.  “The $25 billion allotted for border security is a historic investment in our nation’s borders that will strengthen our ability to keep bad actors out of the country and keep Americans safe. It is a significant improvement from the status quo and will allow us to continue the dialogue as we seek to keep our borders safe and reform our immigration system to one that is merit-based.” 

“Nearly everybody involved in this process has expressed a desire to help these young people, and that’s exactly what our bipartisan group, under the leadership of Senator Collins, has been working towards. Let’s help them, rather than getting bogged down in complicated, comprehensive and unrelated changes to our immigration policy,” said Senator King.  “I hope our amendment will get the votes we need to take these young men and women out of limbo and ensure their legal status in the country they call home.”

“Following the reopening of the government last month, members of our Common Sense Coalition saw that immigration was beginning to fracture along partisan lines.  We met continuously so that Senators could discuss this important issue and reach consensus,” said Senator Collins.  “Our legislation underscores the broad, bipartisan commitment to creating a path to citizenship for Dreamers, who were brought to this country illegally through no decision of their own, while strengthening border security to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants as well as drugs like heroin that are ruining lives.”

“This compromise shows the American people what Congress can get done when we work in a bipartisan way and put politics aside. I’m glad we could work through these complicated issues in a constructive way in order to secure our border and solve some difficult immigration issues that I think both sides can support,” Senator Manchin said. 

“Our proposal would represent the most significant change to immigration law in the past thirty-five years,” said Senator Graham.  “Providing President Trump with $25 billion for the Wall system he campaigned on is a giant step forward for border security.  As to the DACA population, we mirror President Trump’s proposal allowing DACA eligible individuals to obtain legal status and over a ten to twelve-year period, they can become green card holders. This will allow them to pursue their lives with certainty and stability in the United States – the only country they know. This is a substantial down payment on fixing a broken immigration system and truly is a win-win.”

“We’ve reached a deal that gives us the best chance to protect Dreamers against deportation from the only country they know as home,” said Senator Kaine. “This is a true compromise, which includes the significant boost in border security funding our Republican colleagues and President Trump have been asking for. I’ve worked across the aisle for weeks with this large group of Republicans and Democrats to reach this deal, and I hope my colleagues will join us in showing that the Senate can solve tough problems.” 

“I’m pleased to be part of this group of Republicans and Democrats who are working together to make a law, rather than a point,” said Senator Flake.  “A broadly-supported, bipartisan bill that protects DACA recipients and strengthens border security ought to be able to get 60 votes in the Senate. Let’s put it on the floor and work together to get it passed.” 

“This bipartisan legislation represents our best opportunity to make long overdue changes to our immigration laws that will allow 1.8 million Dreamers to live without fear of deportation, make robust investments in border security, and ensure that family reunification remains one of the core values of our immigration system,” said Senator Coons. “This process has not been easy, and this bill is not perfect, but Delawareans sent me to the Senate to not only fight for our values, but to also work across the aisle to get things done.  While this isn't the bill I would have drafted, I believe this is a good, honest compromise, and I will support it on the Senate floor tomorrow.”

“Our immigration system is broken and we need to fix it,” said Senator Gardner. “There are many children who came to this country without documentation and we need to allow them the opportunity to remain here lawfully. This legislation addresses some of the largest challenges our broken immigration system faces, including a major boost to border security, and I urge members on both sides of the aisle that want a solution to support our bipartisan approach.”

“This agreement is full of tough compromises, but it shows that when senators really want to find bipartisan solutions, it’s possible,” said Senator Heitkamp. “That’s the whole purpose of the Common Sense Coalition – to work together, Republicans and Democrats, to reach results for the American people – and I hope Congress passes our deal. I’m proud to have been part of this group that worked together to reopen the government in 2013 and last month. And now we’re doing it again by forging a deal that both provides a permanent solution to those who came to our country as children through no fault of their own while boosting border security at all of our borders.” 

"I am proud to be part of this bipartisan effort," said Senator Murkowski. "The amendment seeks to protect the Dreamers while strengthening our border security and I am encouraged by the time and effort we have spent as a group trying to achieve a consensus on this difficult issue. I hope we can get to a final bill that protects the Dreamers and look forward to the debate." 

“This bipartisan agreement finally allows DREAMers a pathway to citizenship so that they no longer have to live in fear of deportation,” said Senator Shaheen. “Time is of the essence and I urge lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to support this proposal so that DREAMers can finally move on with their lives. This agreement further demonstrates the necessity of good faith bipartisan discussions and the need for compromise to get things done. I look forward to continued participation with the Common Sense Caucus to make further progress on the many challenges facing our country.” 

“My goal is to get a result on both border security and DACA so I will cosponsor and vote for Senator Grassley's legislation implementing the president’s proposal. I will also cosponsor and vote for this narrower bipartisan proposal offered by Senators Rounds and King because it too solves the DACA problem and provides the $25 billion the president requested to improve border security,” said Senator Alexander.

"We can't wait any longer to find a solution for the DREAMers and this bipartisan agreement - which was a product of working across the aisle with my colleagues for the past several weeks - includes a path to citizenship. I am hopeful it can get strong bipartisan support in the Senate,"said Senator Klobuchar.

“We have a real opportunity to secure our borders and address some of the issues in our immigration system,” said Senator Isakson. “I’m committed to continuing to work toward real solutions, and this legislation will help meet many of these goals.”

Highlights of the bipartisan proposal include: 

Legal Status and Path to Citizenship for Young People Brought to the US as Children. 

The amendment provides legal status and a path to citizenship to individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children. Individuals who are registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program automatically qualify, if they arrived in this country by June 15, 2007, unless they have engaged in conduct that would make them ineligible. To obtain legal status, individuals not enrolled in the DACA program must:

  • Have been continuously present in the U.S. since June 15, 2012, the date of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Executive Order;
  • Have been under age 18 when they entered the U.S., and under age 38 on June 15, 2012;
  • Meet educational requirements or be serving in the U.S. Armed Forces (or have been honorably discharged from military service); and
  • Pass background checks, medical exams, and register for the Selective Service, if applicable.

Individuals do not qualify if they are convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors. Individuals are required to pay any federal tax liability incurred while working legally in the U.S.

Beneficiaries can apply for citizenship after 12 years, and up to 2 years of credit will be given for time with DACA.

  

PROHIBITION ON DACA BENEFICIARIES SPONSORING THEIR PARENTS FOR CITIZENSHIP

The amendment includes language prohibiting parents from using their Dreamer children’s newly granted citizenship to apply for citizenship themselves. 

 

BORDER SECURITY

The amendment authorizes and appropriates $25 billion in funding for Northern and Southern border security over the next 10 years.  The bill requires DHS to provide detailed reports to Congress on its security plan, including physical barriers, fencing, tactical infrastructure, technology, personnel, and the milestones for implementing this plan.

Funding after the first year is released each year once the DHS Secretary certifies that at least 75 percent of the goals for the prior year have been reached.  Sixty votes would be required in order to prevent funding for each fiscal year.

The bill also directs the Secretary to prioritize enforcement resources against aliens who:

  • Have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, three or more misdemeanors;
  • Are a threat to national security or public safety; or
  • Are unlawfully present and arrived in the U.S. after June 30, 2018.

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of 27 Senate Democrats in a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Nielsen urging DHS to reverse its decision to end Temporary Protection Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador.

Earlier this week, DHS announced it would be ending TPS designation for the nearly 200,000 Salvadorans working and living under TPS protections in the United States today. Ending the TPS designation will not only uproot thousands of lives, disrupt communities across the U.S. and remove much-needed workers from important sectors of the U.S. economy, but it will also harm progress made to improve conditions in El Salvador. 

“We believe that conditions in El Salvador remain unstable, and that continued TPS designation is warranted for the country,” the senators wrote. “In June 2017, the Trump administration held a conference to promote prosperity, governance, and rule of law in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America—including El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. While progress has been made under the Alliance for Prosperity in reducing gang violence, improving rule of law, and addressing root causes of migration, considerably more work needs to be done as conditions remain dangerous and the economic situation tenuous. The decision to end TPS for 200,000 Salvadorans and needlessly subject these immigrants to deportation stands to threaten, not further, this progress.” 

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the letter was signed by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). 

The letter is available here. The text of the letter is below.

 

The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen

Secretary 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C.  20528

 

Dear Secretary Nielsen:

We write to express our deep concern regarding the unprecedented decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador, and to request that you reverse this decision. 

As you know, nearly 200,000 Salvadorans currently work and live in the United States under TPS protections—more than from any other country. These immigrants have high levels of workforce participation, and their valuable role in our labor force is vital to our economy. According to a recent analysis by the Center for American Progress, if Salvadoran workers with TPS are removed from the labor force, we will lose an estimated $109 billion in GDP over the next decade, as well as billions of dollars in Social Security and Medicare contributions.[1]  The renewal of El Salvador’s TPS designation has received strong support from leaders in both business and labor, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,[2] the AFL-CIO,[3] and the SEIU.[4]  Ending TPS protections for El Salvador will needlessly push nearly 200,000 hardworking immigrants into the shadows, hurting employers in industries across our economy.

El Salvador’s government requested last year that the Trump Administration continue its existing TPS designation, after assessing that its country lacks the capacity to absorb tens of thousands of TPS returnees.[5] Additionally, remittances transmitted by TPS recipients, who are authorized to work in the U.S., provide a critical boost to El Salvador’s fragile economic security. More than 50 percent of TPS recipients in these countries have resided in the U.S. for 20 years or more, and TPS beneficiaries are parents to an estimated 273,000 U.S. citizen children.[6]  The decision to end TPS will uproot thousands of well-established lives and, in many cases, will devastate families and communities.

We believe that conditions in El Salvador remain unstable, and that continued TPS designation is warranted for the country. In June 2017, the Trump administration held a conference to promote prosperity, governance, and rule of law in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America—including El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. While progress has been made under the Alliance for Prosperity in reducing gang violence, improving rule of law, and addressing root causes of migration, considerably more work needs to be done as conditions remain dangerous and the economic situation tenuous. The decision to end TPS for 200,000 Salvadorans and needlessly subject these immigrants to deportation stands to threaten, not further, this progress.

Given these concerns, we ask that you provide the following information no later than January 25, 2018:

1. A complete copy of documents prepared by the State Department and transmitted to the Department of Homeland Security regarding the country condition in El Salvador, including the recommendation regarding extension or termination of the TPS designation for El Salvador;

2. A complete copy of documents prepared by the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador and transmitted to the State Department regarding the Embassy’s assessment of country conditions and formal recommendation related to the extension or termination of the TPS designation for El Salvador;

3. A description of how this information was considered in reaching your decision to terminate the TPS designation for El Salvador;

4. A description of how, if at all, the State Department’s February 14, 2017, travel warning stating that El Salvador has one of the highest homicide levels in the world, and citing high rates of MS-13 and Eighteenth Street gang violence, was considered in reaching your decision to terminate the TPS designation for El Salvador; and

5. A description of any involvement by White House officials in the decision-making process related to the TPS designation for El Salvador, including detailing any policy preference or perspective communicated by the White House to you or other Department of Homeland Security officials.

We urge you to reconsider the decision to end TPS protections for Salvadorans, and commit to working with Congress to pass legislation providing permanent protections for current TPS beneficiaries. Thank you for your attention to this matter. 

With best personal regards, we are

                                                          Sincerely yours,

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the below statement following the Trump Administration decision to end protected status for 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants living legally in the United States: 

“This is another example of the Trump Administration’s misguided approach to immigration. The arbitrary decision to end protection for the Salvadorans who have sought refuge in the United States will break apart American families. It will push an entire community of people, who for nearly two decades have lived, worked, and contributed to the Commonwealth’s economy, into the shadows.”

  

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