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 FeinsteinSenate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Republicans caught in California's recall trap F-35 fighter jets may fall behind adversaries, House committee warns MORE (Calif.) and Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBiden to raise refugee cap to 125,000 in October Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan Angelina Jolie spotted in Capitol meeting with senators MORE (N.Y.), as well as the top Democrats in both chambers' immigration subcommittees, Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinCOVID-19: US should help Africa, or China will GOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in MORE (Ill.) and Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenBiden to raise refugee cap to 125,000 in October Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally Spotlight turns to GOP's McCarthy in Jan. 6 probe MORE (Calif.).

The Democrats wrote in the letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfSunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect Biden, Trump battle over who's to blame for Afghanistan The border is shifting from a manufactured crisis to a national embarrassment 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.