Washington, DC - Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) was joined by 18 of her Democratic colleagues today in calling for the immediate end of the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy at our southern border. The Members, including Democratic Women’s Working Group (DWWG) Chair Lois Frankel and Vice Chair Brenda Lawrence, called on President Donald Trump to abandon his cruel, expensive, and ineffectual policy to separate children from parents seeking refuge from unspeakable violence in their home countries.
“We have a very simple message for the President of the United States: Not on our watch. We will not allow you to rip children from the arms of their parents; to stomp on the Constitution, which you swore to uphold; or to violate our country’s laws on amnesty,” said Rep. Speier, Policy and Communications Chair for the DWWG. “We demand that you open the doors of these detention and processing centers to the media, so that the American public can see what’s really going on. Let them see infants and children on cold, concrete floors with tinfoil blankets, and mothers wearing prison garb, sobbing for help because they don’t know where their children are. That, Mr. President, is not our America and we will not allow you to transform our country into an image that you desire.”
Rep. Speier and 22 other Democratic Members of Congress, hosted by Reps. Filemon Vela (TX-34) and Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), gathered in McAllen and Los Fresnos, Texas to investigate border facilities and see firsthand the devastation that the President’s policy has wrought on children and their parents, guardians, and other family members. Eighteen of those Members gathered at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday to debrief the media on their visit, and to discuss the best path forward.
“According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), wraparound services provided under the Obama Administration had a 99.8 percent success rate of compliance for asylum seekers” Rep. Speier said. “Allowing families to live in the community and receive targeted assistance also costs taxpayers far less, $36 dollar a day, compared to the more than $750 a day to intern children in tent cities or $319 to house each family member in detention centers. We demand the President and his Administration put their hateful partisan politics aside in favor of the least restrictive and most cost effective and legally sound approach.”
“What I saw in the cages and detention facilities was a sea of humanity and people desperately fleeing extreme violence and persecution. I will never forget the heart-wrenching sobbing of mothers recounting the horror of being separated from their children. Mr. Trump thinks being tough on two-year-olds will give him a red wave in November. America is greater than this and we will not be silent until these families are reunited and the zero-tolerance policy ends,” said DWWG Chair Lois Frankel (FL-21).
“The Trump Administration’s so called ‘zero tolerance’ policy of detaining immigrants and ripping children away from their parents is morally and practically indefensible,” said DWWG Vice Chair Brenda Lawrence (MI-14). “I saw toddlers in detention who may be traumatized for life because of their living conditions and separation from their parents. I met with detained and crying mothers who wanted nothing more than to be reunited with their children. We must return to the humane practice of offering asylum to those who qualify. Regardless of status, no family deserves to be broken apart. This is not the America I know, and we simply cannot accept these inhumane practices as our new normal. Not on our watch.”
“The Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy has separated 2,400 children from their parents,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-03). “This is nothing more than child abuse—plain and simple. And they have no plan to reunite all 2,400 children with their parents. They created this unspeakable nightmare. The policy must be stopped now, and we must start an intervention that safeguards these children and reunites families.”
“As a social worker by profession, I am deeply concerned by the treatment of immigrants and asylum-seekers at the detention facilities. They came to the United States fleeing violence and seeking refuge, but are now being traumatized and treated like criminals. We’ve seen these horrors many times in America before, for example, when the children of my ancestors were taken from their families during slavery,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13). “Our federal government is perpetuating child abuse and human rights abuses on the most vulnerable. Last week, I sent a letter asking United Nations observers to go to the border to investigate the impacts of the zero tolerance policy. We must do everything in our power to end the mistreatment of these children and families.”
“The trip to the US-Mexican border in Texas inspired me to fight harder against the monstrous cruelty of the Trump Administration,” said Rep. Mike Capuano (MA-07). Separating parents and children is un-American, a violation of our deepest commitments to human freedom and dignity and to the sanctity of family bonds. I will not rest until every child and parent separated at the border are reunited again.”
“The most disturbing thing I saw all day was a group of 45 refugee women at the Port Isabel ICE detention center who had been separated from their children. Many did not know where their kids were, and even the ones who did could only talk to them once a week. Two were breastfeeding and had their babies taken,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (CO-01). “As a nation, we need to have a hard examination of the way we treat people who are fleeing repressive governments and gang violence. We need to treat them with human dignity, process them swiftly and accurately, and handle them humanely.”
“Since returning home, people have asked me if things are really as bad as they heard. I answer that it was every bit as inhumane, un-American, and unjust as we feared it would be,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-01). “According to international laws our country helped establish, these families are not supposed to be held in detention indefinitely or have their children taken from them. We can’t let this continue on our watch. Our government could save a lot of trauma and taxpayer money by releasing these asylum seekers so they can keep their families together and wait for their chance to claim asylum before a judge.”
“The heartbreaking image of 30 Mylar bumps in a holding cage rising up and revealing 30 little girls, many of whom had been crying, is something I'll carry with me for the rest of my life. These are not criminals. These are not the enemy. These are terrified children and we owe them so much more compassion and humanity than we have shown so far,” said Rep. Jim Himes (CT-04).
"What we saw in McAllen and Brownsville was deeply troubling,” said Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02). “We met with 40 mothers seeking asylum who have been separated from their children. It was heartbreaking to hear their stories, including mothers being separated from nursing infants. Many of these families are seeking asylum after fleeing terrible violence in their home countries. Ripping children from their families only serves to further traumatize these young people who have already undergone tremendous hardship. I have serious concerns that there is no plan in place to reunite all of these families. It’s critical that the Administration release a comprehensive plan to reunite these families and ensure that no other families are treated in this terrible manner.”
“We can’t solve a humanitarian crisis with a lack of humanity. This whole separation system is simply un-American. It goes against everything we stand for as a nation,” said Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47). “We cannot continue to treat people this way. It is inhumane and it is morally wrong. We have a moral duty to treat these families, who are vulnerable and suffering, with dignity and compassion. Families must be reunified immediately. Then we must work to put in place a humane system that upholds our laws, but does not cause us to lose our collective souls in the process.”
"I am still trying to process all that I saw. It was horrible, painful and unacceptable. Seeing children in cages who were sleeping on cold concrete floors and hearing from mothers who have no idea where their kids were taken was beyond heartbreaking. Our top priority must be to help these families,” said Rep. Grace Meng (NY-06). “President Trump created this crisis and he must devise a clear plan to end it. Separating families and forcing them to endure these deplorable and inhumane conditions is unacceptable, and cannot be allowed to continue."
“What we witnessed in Texas was heart-wrenching, cruel, and inhumane. This manufactured crisis, provoked by the Trump Administration’s failed immigration policies, is creating real and permanent harm to already vulnerable families. When I think of the conversations I had with these parents this past weekend, I think of the desperation in their voices as they pleaded with us to help find their children. No family should be subjected to such mental torment. We ought to be doing all that we can to reunite these families, and that means rational immigration policies that address people fleeing from terror in their own countries. This Administration’s policies were intended to be cruel and dehumanizing, and they are. Not only are these policies inflicting harm on vulnerable children, but they are inflicting havoc on our own nation by undermining our moral authority. We need to reunify these families immediately and redouble our efforts to craft smart, safe, and compassionate immigration reform legislation,” said Rep. Elizabeth Esty (CT-05).
“We are a nation of laws—I spent a lot of time enforcing them. What we saw in Texas was appalling. Customs and Border Protection has been given an unjust and improper order. If Trump was serious about keeping out gang members, if he was serious about national security, then he would direct our law enforcement agencies to target the most violent people, not children and parents,” said Rep. Val Demings (FL-10). “I have spent a lot of time visiting jails. I have never seen diapers, until this weekend. It is a strange time when the President of the United States treats our enemies like our friends, and parents and children like the enemy. This is a self-inflicted wound, created by the President, and it will not end until every separated child is reunited with their parents.”
“This past weekend I saw the unconscionable. I saw dozens of men, women, and children jailed in cages, being treated like criminals, when we should be offering them refuge. These families came to this country out of desperation for asylum, safety, and protection, but have only encountered cruelty and injustice at the hands of President Trump and his Administration,” said Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-04). “The zero tolerance policy must be ended immediately, and the thousands of children that were ripped out of their parents' arms must be reunified with their families without delay.”
“Unfortunately, my visit to the border confirmed my worst fears. I met a mother in detention whose son was sent to New York. No one could tell her where or how to contact him. The reality is we are imprisoning families that are coming to us for refuge and instead of helping we are retraumatizing them. No one I spoke with could articulate the plan to reunify families,” said Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-05). “Immigration reform does not need to be a choice between militarization or compassion. We must honor the best of our country’s ideals and demand family reunification. I am committed to reunifying these families and working towards immigration policies that eliminate the current chaos and treat people with dignity. I call on my Republican colleagues to join us in righting this wrong created by the Trump administration.”