Committee Investigates Trump Administration’s Continued Separations of Immigrant Children and Families

Jan 23, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Jan. 23, 2020)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requesting documents and information related to recent news that the Trump Administration has continued to separate hundreds of additional immigrant children from their parents.  

“The new separations appear to follow an opaque process and vague standards that may be causing many children to be separated unnecessarily,” Chairwoman Maloney and Chairman Raskin wrote. 

The Trump Administration separated more than 3,000 children from their families before a federal court halted mass separations in June 2018 and ordered the Administration to reunite the children with their families if possible.  In May 2019, then-Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan testified that ongoing child separations are “extraordinarily rare.” 

Yet, a court recently found that the Administration “separated nearly 1,000 migrant families at the border” in the 12 months following the June 2018 court order ending zero tolerance.   

“The separation of even a single child from their parent is likely to cause deep and lasting trauma,” Maloney and Raskin continued.  “Separation should only occur in those exceedingly rare circumstances in which it is truly necessary to protect a child, and only following a rigorous, transparent process.” 

Acting Secretary McAleenan testified before the Committee that separations “are carefully governed by policy and court order” to ensure the separation is “in the interest of the child.”  However, according to sworn declarations filed by independent experts, the Administration has separated children based on mere allegations rather than convictions, minor or nonviolent convictions, extremely old convictions, non-serious medical issues, unsubstantiated doubts about parentage, and subjective judgments about parental fitness.

DHS has stated that the Administration is continuing to separate children from their families based on “interim guidance” sent to the heads of Border Patrol and the Office of Field Operations within Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on June 27, 2018. 

This two-page document provides CBP personnel wide discretion to separate children when they arrive at the border.  It states that the Administration “may” separate children based on several factors, including if the parent is being prosecuted for a felony, “presents a danger to the child,” has a “criminal conviction(s) for violent misdemeanors or felonies,” or has a “communicable disease.”

“The Committee is deeply concerned by the number of separations the Trump Administration is causing, the lack of clear and transparent processes, the inadequate justifications for taking children away from their families, and the ongoing inability to track and reunify families,” wrote Maloney and Raskin. 

Maloney and Raskin requested that DHS provide information on all separated children, the process and justification for separating children, and how DHS plans to track separated children and reunify families by February 6, 2020.

Click here to read today’s letter. 

116th Congress