Source: Queens Gazette: I On Politics
By John Toscano
Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12) joined House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10) and more than 190 of her colleagues on June 19 to introduce the Keep Families Together Act, HR 6135, a bill meant to stop the Trump administration’s cruel policy of family separation at the border.
The day after the introduction of the above bill, and after massive outrage around the world, the president suddenly reversed his administration’s policy with an executive order on June 20 barring the separation of families. He had previously said only Congress can change this policy. With Trump’s latest executive order, families will be detained together. Over 2,300 children have been taken in the past month, and a daily average of 41,000 adults are being held by ICE.
Council Member Maloney said, “We need to stop this inhumane, un-American policy immediately. Speaker Ryan needs to bring the Keep Families Together Act to the floor immediately for a vote. This cruelty is a new low, even for this administration.
“These families have travelled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to keep their children safe and away from the harm that awaits them at home. No one takes that harrowing journey lightly. No one leaves behind the only home they have known, their friends or their extended family if they have any other choice.
“Yet, instead of accepting these refugees with compassion, this administration is persecuting and prosecuting those fleeing danger, taking babies from their mothers’ and fathers’ arms causing irreparable trauma. There is absolutely no justification for this policy. It is cruelty for cruelty’s sake. This cannot be who we are.”
The Keep Families Together Act would keep families together 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. It requires an independent child welfare official to review any such separation and return the child if no harm to the child is present. It imposes financial penalties on officials who violate the prohibition on family separation.
The bill would also limit criminal prosecutions for asylum seekers. By adopting the recommendation of the DHS Office of Inspector General, the bill delays prosecutions for illegal entry or reentry for asylum seekers and creates an affirmative defense for asylum seekers. It also codifies our commitment to the Refugee protocol prohibiting the criminal punishment of those seeking protection from persecution.
Additionally the bill would increase child welfare training for all CBP officers and agents on an annual basis, and establish public policy preference for family reunification; require DHS to develop policies and procedures allowing parents and children to locate each other and reunite if they have been separated. In cases of separation, it requires DHS to provide parents with a weekly report containing information about a child, and weekly phone communication.