Florida lawmakers file bill to end family separation at U.S. border

Florida lawmakers file bill to end family separation at U.S. border
Photo via @DavidBegnaud/Twitter
Florida lawmakers, along with 190 other House Democrats, filed a bill Tuesday to end the Trump Administration's policy to separate migrant children from their parents at our country's border.

Local Representatives Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy were among the co-signers of the bill.

"We are a country of law and order, but it seems to me like this Administration has forgotten about the order part," said Murphy in a statement. "The White House implemented this new border policy without fully considering the consequences, resulting in chaos. This is just another example of the Administration’s half-baked approach to policy."

According to Murphy, the Keep Families Together" act, or H.R. 6135, would essentially stop children and parents from being separated at the U.S. border, and would also ensure that any family seeking asylum would be treated fairly.

"As a mom, I am outraged by the way that innocent children are being treated at the border and frustrated to see this Administration implement a cruel and misguided policy that separates families," said Murphy. "As a former national security specialist for the Department of Defense, I know there are ways for us to keep our country safe without betraying our nation's core values. I’m proud to help introduce the Keep Families Together Act to end family separation at the border, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work together to pass this bill."

The Keep Families Together Act would:
Keep Families Together: The bill promotes family unity 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.

Limit Criminal Prosecutions for Asylum Seekers: The majority of the parents separated at the border are being criminally prosecuted for illegal entry or re-entry. This bill restricts the prosecution of parents who are asylum seekers by adopting the recommendation of the DHS Office of Inspector General. The bill delays prosecutions for illegal entry or re-entry 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.

Increase Child Welfare Training: The bill requires all CBP officers and agents to complete child welfare training on an annual basis. Port Directors and Chief Border Agents, those who are authorized to make decisions on family separations, must complete an additional 90 minutes of annual child-welfare training.

Establish Public Policy Preference for Family Reunification: The bill establishes a preference for family unity, discourages the separation of siblings, and creates a presumption that detention is not in the best interests of families and children.

Add Procedures for Separated Families: The bill requires DHS to develop policies and procedures allowing parents and children to locate each other and reunite if they have been separated. Such procedures must be public and made available in a language that parents can understand. In cases of separation, it requires DHS to provide parents with a weekly report containing information about a child, and weekly phone communication.

Establish Other Required Measures: In order to inform Congressional oversight and promote public understanding of the use family separation, the bill requires a report on the separation of families every six months.
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