Scott Peters: Family Separation at the Border is Cruel, Immoral, and Un-American

June 22, 2018

Rep. Peters recently decried the policy of separating children from their parents at the border as “cruel, immoral, and un-American.” His thoughts on the subject of family separation were profiled in a June 20 op-ed for The San Diego Union-Tribune, posted below:

Immigrant children separations: We asked San Diego County’s members of Congress where they stand

by Abby Hamblin

June 20, 2018

Immigrant children are shown outside a former Job Corps site that now houses them, Monday, June 18, 2018, in Homestead, Florida. It is not known if the children crossed the border as unaccompanied minors or were separated from family members. (Wilfredo Lee / AP)

The Trump administration’s policy of separating families after illegal border crossings is in the spotlight again this week with pressure being put on the president from all angles.

The “zero-tolerance” strategy introduced in April by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to increase prosecution of unauthorized immigrants resulted in at least 2,000 children being separated from their parents since the policy took effect.

Trump met with House Republicans on Tuesday amid complaints from lawmakers in both parties and public outrage in the form of protests, criticism from all five living current or former first ladies and increased interest in the conditions the children are living in.

As lawmakers look for legislative solutions, we wanted to get a better sense of where our congressional representatives stand on the issue. We sent the five members of San Diego County’s congressional delegation and California’s two senators the same set of questions on Tuesday.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego

Getty Images

What is your view of the unfolding situation with children of unauthorized immigrants being separated from their parents at the border?

“Separating children from their parents is cruel, immoral, and un-American. It also goes against decades of immigration policies that kept families together and court rulings that established protections for children. As a parent, I can only imagine how devastating it would be to have my child taken away and yet, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

This policy abandons the fundamental values of our country, especially the institution of family, which shapes every aspect of our lives. We should be treating immigrant families with respect and dignity that demonstrates American values to the rest of the world. Tearing families apart as an immigration deterrent is repulsive, and it’s not American.”

Public discourse surrounding this issue has included comparisons to Nazi concentration camps and internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II. Is this appropriate?

“I believe that if we don’t act swiftly and forcefully to stop this, as with the Nazis and Japanese internment, in years to come, we will look back on ourselves with deep regret and sadness. History and our experience has taught us that we must intervene. They are also similar in that they are motivated by fear and xenophobia. No one should inflict or endure this kind of suffering based on race, religion, nation of origin, or any other discrimination.

America was founded as a place of refuge. This is about how we treat those seeking a better life, as our founders were.”

What do you think of the Trump administration policy leading to such separations and how he has handled the last few weeks and days?

“Most policy directives — if you can even call them that — from the White House are chaotic and meant to divide Americans. Once again, the president is resorting to extreme measures to get his border wall and using immigrant children as a bargaining chip. President Trump knows what he’s doing, but he likely doesn’t know, nor care, the extent to which his policies endanger immigrants.

The majority of Americans oppose family separation, but the President continues to listen to a small, extreme minority to justify his actions. This “zero tolerance policy” is a measured attack on immigrants because he has not gotten his ridiculous border wall.

Finally, the administration has stalled for months on the bipartisan proposals Congress has put forward to fix our immigration system — to address border security, Dreamers, and more. There is now a bill to address family separation. Yet, the president blames Democrats in Congress for his administration’s decision. Unfortunately, Trump continues to spread false information in an attempt to get his border wall.”

What are you doing about this?

“I helped introduce the Keep Families Together Act, which prohibits Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials from separating children from their parents, except in extraordinary circumstances, like trafficking indicators or other concerns of risk to the child. It also requires DHS to develop policies and procedures allowing parents and children to locate each other and reunite if they have been separated. Congress would have oversight of implementation by requiring a report from DHS on the separation of families every six months to explain their reasoning for each case.

I’m also urging my Republican colleagues to support and help pass this bill. Truth and what is right always transcends party. There’s no question we need to be unified against this practice to stop it.”

What should Congress do about it?

“Congress needs to pass the Keep Families Together Act as soon as possible. It’s clear the Trump Administration has no intention of reversing this cruel policy — which they could with the stroke of a pen — so Congress needs to act.

On a larger scale, it is beyond time to debate and pass comprehensive immigration reform so we can address family separation, Dreamers, border security, and more.”

3.31.02

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