The separation of children from their immigrant parents at the United States’ southern border has prompted strong reaction nationally, including condemnation from some politicians and clergy.
The separations result from the Trump Administration’s decision earlier this spring to pursue what it calls a “zero tolerance” policy against illegal immigrants, under which the administration says it prosecutes all illegal border-crossers criminally.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the president and other officials have repeatedly said the only way to end the practice is for Congress to pass new legislation, though both Democrats and some Republicans have said the president could reverse it with a simple phone call. On Wednesday, Nielsen announced she had drafted an executive action for President Donald Trump that would direct her department to keep families together after they are detained crossing the border illegally.
Here is what Ohio’s top politicians have said about the current policy.
“When I look down at the border, I feel as though in some people’s eyes these people are objects, that they’re not people. Well, they are people. They’re flesh and they’re blood and they bleed and they cry. We have to care about them. Can you imagine being ripped away from your family? That’s no solution. That’s not America… Ripping apart families is serious business. It’s up to all of us to speak out.”
“I am so disturbed by pictures of American officials separating children from their parents. We all should support following legal processes to become an American citizen, but inhumane treatment of children is just wrong. We can do better.”
“We need comprehensive immigration reform. The laws need to be followed, as far as who comes into the United States and who doesn’t. However, this great country should not be in the position of separating children from their parents.”
United States Senate
“We demand all children be treated with compassion. Tearing families apart is wrong and will not fix our broken immigration system. That’s why I joined Senator Dianne Feinstein’s bill last week to keep children and parents together. Thank you to everyone following this important legislation.”
(A copy of Senator Brown’s letter to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security can be found HERE.)
“As I have said for the last several weeks, I oppose the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents. This is counter to our values. We can have strong border security without separating families at the border. They can be kept together and dealt with as a family unit.
“The administration’s policy will increase the number of unaccompanied minors. Based on the extensive oversight I’ve conducted as Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), we know that HHS and DHS are not prepared to effectively deal with even more unaccompanied minors. This policy is taking children from the love and care that parents provide and putting them at risk of trafficking, abuse, and getting lost in the immigration system. I have taken the lead in exposing the inadequate practices at these agencies, practices that led to HHS turning several unaccompanied minors over to human traffickers under the previous administration. And I’ve taken the lead in pushing these agencies to put reforms in place that ensure unaccompanied minor children who come without parents are not trafficked or abused and make their court dates.
“The administration should change course immediately and use its executive authority to keep families together and expedite their cases. If those changes aren’t made, Congress should act quickly on a legislative solution to fix this problem. I’m working with my colleagues to develop a compassionate solution that upholds our immigration laws and keeps families together while their cases are being processed.”
United States House of Representatives
“No one wants to see children separated from their families. At the same time, immigration officials have a duty to protect children that come into their custody. There are certain circumstances under which immigration officials are required to separate children from accompanying adults, particularly when they fear the child may be in danger, they suspect human trafficking may be involved, or when the parents are subject to criminal prosecution.
“Unfortunately, according to the Department of Homeland Security, there has been a massive influx of cases of adults trying to enter the country illegally, while posing with children as family members, which has led to more children being separated from more adults at the border than in years past.
“To help make sure that children are not unnecessarily separated from their families, the House is considering legislation this week to give immigration officials broader discretion with the goal of keeping more families united whenever and wherever possible.”
(Statement via The Cincinnati Enquirer)
“No one is in favor of separating families. The laws currently in place prevent the situation at the border from being addressed in a compassionate way.
“As is our authority, Congress needs to legislate to cohesively update and modernize our immigration laws to provide a lasting policy that protects Americans, vulnerable families, and enforces the law. These are our nation’s values.
“This week, the House plans to vote on legislation to fix family separation at the border.”
“I believe in keeping families together and think that the Trump administration’s policy ripping migrant children and parents apart is immoral. As opposed to using these families’ heartache and tragedy as political ransom to fund and build a border wall, I call on Trump to end his cruel policy, and I urge House Republican Leadership to bring the Keep Families Together Act to the House floor and to work on comprehensive solutions to fix our broken immigration system.”
“No one wants to separate families. Let’s fix it! But let’s do it in a way that is consistent with the rule of law and the mandate of the 2016 election.”
(Statement via The Cincinnati Enquirer)
“When it comes to immigration, I’ve always supported securing our borders and enforcing the law for anybody trying to illegally enter our country. I don’t believe that it’s necessary to separate children from their parents in order to accomplish these goals.
“That’s why I support two pieces of legislation being voted on by the House this week that would solve the issue of children being taken away from their parents at the border, while also strengthening immigration enforcement. The bills would end the visa lottery, move us to a merit-based immigration system, and fund construction of a southern border wall. The bills also clarify the Flores decision, so that we can keep children with their parents throughout the entire process.
“I’m hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will put politics aside and pass these bills to provide a resolution to this issue.”
“By choosing to cross the border, illegally, and often in dangerous circumstances, illegal immigrants are putting their children at risk. No one likes to see the images we have seen, but it’s important to remember that this is not a new policy or new phenomenon at our southern border, it just became a coordinated media story. I’ve said for years now that we need immigration reform, and that it starts with securing our borders, period. This complex issue, that previous presidents kicked the can down the road on, must be dealt with now. And as a father and grandfather, I’m confident that we can do so in a way that is compassionate and fair, but that puts Americans – and America’s interests – first.
“Last night, the President met with House Republicans, and I’m optimistic that we can find a path forward to secure our borders, implement an immigration system that keeps America safe and secure, and protect the rights of all American citizens – all while avoiding the separation of children from their parents.”
“Congressman Gibbs is supporting the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, which has specific language preventing the separation of families when detained for illegally crossing the border. The President is right in taking illegal immigration seriously and there are many problems that must be addressed in our current immigration policy. This bill takes real steps to increase border security while making the changes necessary to keep detained families together. Earlier this week Congressman Gibbs called on Congressional Democrats to make a good faith effort in debating immigration legislation. The question now is whether Chuck Schumer and Congressional Democrats will end their opposition to this commonsense solution.”
(Statement provided by Dallas Gerber, Deputy Chief of Staff)
“Border security is national security and enforcing our laws and securing the border are not optional. Those who enter America lawfully are being handled in the same manner as prior administrations. However, those who are caught crossing illegally are being charged with crimes.
“I join all Americans to express the desire that innocent people, especially children are protected and kept safe. Meanwhile, suspected lawbreakers must be given due process and prosecuted.”
(Statement via The Cincinnati Enquirer)
“(The President’s) policy of separating children from parents at the southern border is inhumane and doesn’t make us safer. This has more to do w/ cynical politics of division than sensible immigration policy.”
“Congressman Turner opposes the separation of families at the border and is supporting Speaker Ryan’s bill. He interviewed on CNN on this issue yesterday morning, full clip here.”
(Statement provided by Morgan Rako, Press Secretary)
“This administration blames Democrats. All it takes is an executive order to reunite immigrant children with their families. Show the world that America has a soul and end this now! #KeepFamiliesTogether”
“Separating children from their parents at the border is unacceptable and contrary to our country’s values. Since President Bill Clinton’s administration, the federal government has failed to act. Congress needs to pass legislation now to expedite these cases and to overturn the court ruling that prevents children from staying in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security for more than 20 days. Parents and children should remain together. Period.
“As a member of Congress, I will also support legislation to build the wall and secure our border to prevent the exploitation of children, stop human trafficking, and provide secure borders for our country. For far too long, Congress has failed to act. This shouldn’t be about politics, but rather getting the job done.”
“Taking children from their families when they come across the border is disgusting, and Washington is broken because politicians like Troy Balderson don’t have the courage to call on the one person who put this policy in place and has the power to stop it. I’ll work with Democrats, Republicans, and President Trump to fix our broken immigration system, but what he’s doing is wrong, and it shouldn’t matter what party you’re from to say that. I applaud Gov. Kasich for putting country over party.”
“The Trump Administration’s decision to rip these families apart is just that, a decision, and it’s being enabled by a Republican-led Congress that supports this family separation policy. We didn’t need to introduce this bill. The President can fix it today. If this Administration had an ounce of humanity, it would do the right thing and bring these families back together.”
“I oppose efforts to separate parents from their children. As a father, I believe in family first. I also oppose the policy of catch and release. It is time to find a real, long-term solution to the many issues impacting our broken immigration system.”
“As a father, I know firsthand that there is nothing more important than family, and I understand why kids need to be with their parents. That’s why I have publicly come out against separating children from their parents at the border.
“I am writing a letter to understand the current policies and to ask the Administration to stop needlessly separating children from their parents. If the policy is not changed, I will support other means to stop unnecessary separation of children from their parents.”
“I have been receiving a lot of feedback about children being separated from their parents when they are detained at the border.
“I want to make crystal clear, that as a father of three, my wife and I would be devastated to be separated from our children and absolutely do not support this law.
“Remember this is a law that has been in place for over 10 years and just has not be enforced. See, what was happening is that when someone was detained, since the law says their children can’t be held with them, they would just be given a court date, released, and never show up to court.
“America is founded on the rule of law, and the letter of the law says it is illegal to enter this country without following the correct process.
“Parents who bring their children into this country illegally know this, but their children should not be punished for their decision.
“We can fix this in Congress, and there are two bills being considered that will allow children to remain with their parents while legal proceedings occur.
“This is just a small part of our broken immigration system, and I believe Ohio jobs and the security of our families are being affected by the lack of consensus in Congress. I am committed to securing our borders and believe building a wall is step one of many.
“I also want you to know that you are being heard, every phone call and comment is recorded and referred back to me. I appreciate the comments and use this information when shaping my decisions, so please keep calling!”