Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said Sunday that at least 50 children a day are taken from their parents at the U.S. border, and has introduced legislation that would make it illegal to separate family members entering the US.
Speaking to CNN, Feinstein called the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy of separating adults and children “inhumane” and “callous.”
Feinstein likely drew her statistics from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, which informed the senator during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month, that 658 children were taken from 638 parents during a two-week period in May, an average of approximately 47 children being separated from their parents.
“They’re taken and no one knows what happens to them,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “Their parents don’t know how to find them.”
Feinstein introduced her bill Friday that would prevent such separations.
The Keep Families Together Act would allow separations only if it is found that the children have been trafficked or abused by their parents. President Donald Trump has said that he would be open to a bill that aims to keep families together.
“All they have to do is call us,” the president said, according to CBS News. “And we’ll draw a bill that gives us great border safety and security and it’s fair. Because I don’t like these children being separated from their parents, I don’t like it, I hate it! But that’s a Democrat bill that we’re enforcing.”
The president’s claim that Democrats are responsible for creating the law that requires family separations is a lie. While such separations also took place under the Bush and Obama administrations — albeit rarely — no such law exists. In fact, it was Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero tolerance” policy, announced in April, that resulted in the dramatic rise in the number of children being separated from their parents.
Under the new policy, the Trump administration has prosecuted all people, including those seeking asylum, who attempt to cross the border into the United States without documentation. The consequence of the policy is that children are separated from their families, while their parents are prosecuted.
The practice has drawn heated criticism from Democrats, immigration experts, and human rights advocates who claim that it will do nothing to deter border crossings and is unnecessarily cruel.
Many have pointed to a recent case, first reported by The Washington Post, in which a Honduran father who was arrested and forcibly separated from his wife and child after trying to enter the United States, killed himself while in jail. The father, Marco Antonio Muñoz, his wife, and three-year-old son were seeking to apply for asylum.
Last week, a U.S. district judge allowed a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that challenges the practice to move forward, calling the Trump administration’s conduct “brutal” and “offensive.”