DeGette: DHS Has No Right or Reason to Separate Families

Feb 8, 2018
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), Chief Deputy Whip, joined 74 Democratic House members in sending a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen expressing profound concern with the Department of Homeland Security's practice of separating immigrant families, both in the United States and at the border. Numerous studies and stories have shown this practice traumatizes those seeking humanitarian relief and limits their ability to lawfully pursue legal relief.

The effort was led by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard and Pramila Jayapal, Co-Chairs of the Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. The letter urges U.S. Immigrations and Customs enforcement (ICE) at DHS to immediately clarify current policies and to reverse any established or de facto policies that undermine the ability of those seeking humanitarian relief to pursue protection or result in the needless separation of and harm to families.

“Separating children from their parents is unconscionable and contradicts the most basic of American family values. Moreover, the reported justification of this practice as a deterrent to family migration suggests a lack of understanding about the violence many families are fleeing in their home countries. More pointedly, the pretext of deterrence is not a legally sufficient basis for separating families,” DeGette and the members wrote.

“We are deeply disturbed by reports that the practice of separating families is increasing. Two recent complaints filed with DHS oversight components, the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the Office of Inspector General, illustrate that DHS appears to be intentionally separating families for purposes of deterrence and punishment.”

“We believe that separation is especially unnecessary given that ICE can and should turn to humane, less costly alternatives to detention, such as the Family Case Management Program, which ICE prematurely terminated after only one year of a five year pilot.  Rather than protecting the best interests of the child, practices that punish and deter immigrant families violate fundamental domestic and international principles of family unity and are inconsistent with numerous U.S. child welfare and refugee laws and obligations.”

Read the letter here