WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine on Friday joined other Sneators in introducing legislation to put an end to cruel and neglectful treatment of children at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act would reform the treatment of children fleeing persecution, starting the moment they arrive at the border to claim asylum until the ultimate resolution of their asylum case.
“The Trump Administration’s ongoing abuse of migrant children is barbaric and outrageous, and the damage being done to children at these detention centers is irreversible,” said Sen. Warner. “In addition to ending the cruel separation of families, this legislation will ensure that the government fulfills its responsibility of guaranteeing safe and sanitary conditions for children and families in government custody.”
“The Trump Administration’s treatment of immigrant families is both cruel and incompetent. We need to do everything we can in Congress to stand up against the heartless actions of this President and protect these kids,” Sen. Kaine said.
The legislation would create clear, non-negotiable standards for the treatment of children in America’s care, including:
- Ending family separations except when authorized by a state court or child welfare agency, or when Customs and Border Protection and an independent child welfare specialist agree that a child is a trafficking victim, is not the child of an accompanying adult, or is in danger of abuse or neglect.
- Setting minimum health and safety standards for children and families in Border Patrol Stations, requiring access to hygiene products including toothbrushes, diapers, soap and showers, and a prompt medical assessment by trained medical providers.
- Requiring that children receive three meals a day that meet USDA nutrition standards.
- Ending for-profit contractors from operating new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) standard shelters or influx facilities, and ensuring that temporary influx facilities are state-licensed, meet Flores standards, and are not used to house children indefinitely.
- Expanding alternatives to detention and the successful Family Case Management Program.
- Removing roadblocks to placing unaccompanied children with sponsors by lowering case manager caseloads, mandating lower staffing ratios, and ending the information sharing agreement between ORR and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These provisions would ensure that children are moved out of detention centers and into community-based settings – usually, sponsored by family members – as soon as possible.
- Ensuring unaccompanied children have access to legal counsel and continue to be placed in a non-adversarial setting for their initial asylum case review.