WASHINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Bipartisan outrage is growing over the practice of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
On Monday, U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced plans to keep parents and their children together at the border.
Sen. Cornyn discussed his plan to update and reintroduce his 2014 legislation, the HUMANE Act, to keep parents and children who’ve been apprehended at the border together while they wait for their court hearings.
“Just like under the Obama Administration in 2014, we’ve seen a surge of unaccompanied children and families coming across our southern border during the spring and summer months,” Cornyn said on the Senate floor. “The Trump Administration has made a decision to enforce all of our laws by prosecuting adults in criminal court when they’re apprehended crossing our borders illegally. I support that approach.”
“Because of numerous federal court decisions, settlements, and statutes, an adult can be separated from a child as part of the legal process as it plays out… That way, children are placed in a separate, safer setting. I doubt many of us would want a child to go to a jail cell where somebody is being held for illegally entering the country. That’s why they are put in a separate, safer setting. They aren’t left unattended and fending for themselves amongst potentially violent criminals that are being detained in regular ICE or bureau prison facilities.”
Sen. Cornyn went on to say to his Senate colleagues, “As the New York Times stated this weekend, there is no expressed Trump Administration policy stating that illegal border crossers must be separated from their children… This is as a result of other consent decrees and laws which are within the power of Congress to change. In fact, I think every member of this Chamber will agree that we should never be placing children in prison cells or jails with hardened criminals when their parents are being prosecuted.”
Sen. Cornyn said the government should keep family members together and prevent unnecessary hardship, stress and outrage.
“The good news is we have it within our power to find a better way because parents who are awaiting court proceedings shouldn’t have to do so separated from their children, and children shouldn’t be taken from their parents and left frightened and confused about where they are and what is transpiring around them,” Cornyn said.
In 2014, Sen. Cornyn introduced a bipartisan bill called the HUMANE Act with Democratic U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Texas.
Sen. Cornyn said he plans to reintroduce an updated version of that legislation.
“It will include provisions that mitigate the problem of family separation while improving the immigration court process for unaccompanied children and families apprehended at the border. To the greatest extent possible, families presenting at ports of entry or apprehended crossing the border illegally will be kept together while waiting for their court hearings, which will be expedited.. I would ask our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take a hard look at this bill and to work together to find a reasonable solution for this component of the crisis at our border.”
Meantime, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), said he is introducing emergency legislation to “keep illegal immigrant families together.”
He issued the following statement:
“All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers. This must stop. Now. We can end this crisis by passing the legislation I am introducing this week.
“Repeatedly, I have visited detention facilities tragically housing young children. For far too long, children have been the greatest victims of our broken immigration system, with tens of thousands of children who were detained under the Obama Administration and continuing through today, and with far too many of those children facing horrific physical or sexual assault from criminal human traffickers.
“The answer is not what congressional Democrats are proposing: simply releasing illegal aliens and returning to the failed policy of ‘catch and release.’ Rather, we should fix the backlog in immigration cases, remove the legal barriers to swift processing, and resolve asylum cases on an expedited basis.
“While these cases are pending, families should stay together. Children belong with their mothers and fathers. Once their cases have been adjudicated – under my legislation, in no longer than 14 days – those who meet the legal standard should be granted asylum and those who don’t should be immediately returned to their home country.”
“We can fix this. If my Democratic colleagues will join me, not play politics but work to solve the problem, we can start to end family separation this week. And, we can honor the rule of law.”
Sen. Cruz is introducing the Protect Kids and Parents Act, which he says will:
· Double the number of federal immigration judges, from roughly 375 to 750.
· Authorize new temporary shelters, with accommodations to keep families together.
· Mandate that illegal immigrant families must be kept together, absent aggravated criminal conduct or threat of harm to the children.
· Provide for expedited processing and review of asylum cases, so that—within 14 days—those who meet the legal standards will be granted asylum, and those who do not will be immediately returned to their home countries.