Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children

Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children
© Aaron Schwartz

Top Democrats on the House and Senate Judiciary committees demanded Monday that the Trump administration stop removing unaccompanied minor migrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border.

The letter was signed by the top Democrats in the House and Senate Judiciary committees, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP chairmen stake out turf in Obama-era probes Rosenstein takes fire from Republicans in heated testimony Democrats aim to amend Graham subpoena to include Trump allies MORE (Calif.) and Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Judiciary Committee to hold hearing on police brutality next week House Judiciary to hear whistleblowers on 'politicization' of Justice Dept under Trump House Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality MORE (N.Y.), as well as the top Democrats in both chambers' immigration subcommittees, Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGraham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over Senate panel sends Trump appeals court pick to floor in party-line vote Democrats aim to amend Graham subpoena to include Trump allies MORE (Ill.) and Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate MORE (Calif.).

The Democrats wrote in the letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfDemocrats press DHS over use of drone during Minneapolis protests House Homeland Security Committee asks for more information about extremist involvement in protests Hundreds of migrant children, teens deported under pandemic border policy: report MORE that they are "concerned" about recent media reports that unaccompanied minors are being turned away, in contravention of the Trafficking Victim Protections Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).

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The New York Times had reported that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was turning away anyone who crossed the border illegally, citing a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order that is part of the administration's effort to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The order, however, was not expected to apply to unaccompanied minors, who are protected by the TVPRA.

"Reports that DHS is not following the TVPRA are deeply troubling. We have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of these children," wrote the Democrats.

"Children do not have to be put in harm’s way to protect us from the coronavirus pandemic. DHS has the ability and capacity to protect both these children and the public. We request that DHS stop this practice immediately," they added.

The Democratic lawmakers argued CBP must turn over all unaccompanied minors encountered crossing the border without prior authorization to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

A CBP spokesman said that the agency complies with rules of turning over minors to HHS but added it may turn away children on "a case-by-case basis" to comply with the CDC order.

CBP "may, on a case-by-case basis, such as when return to the home country is not possible or an agent suspects trafficking or sees signs of illness, except any alien from the CDC order. Minors excepted from the CDC order who are encountered without a parent or legal guardian will be processed as unaccompanied alien children under Title 8 and will be turned over to HHS/ORR," wrote the spokesman.