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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 FeinsteinProgressive support builds for expanding lower courts Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill What exactly are uber-woke educators teaching our kids? MORE (Calif.) and Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerJim Jordan calls for House Judiciary hearing on 'cancel culture' House Judiciary split on how to address domestic extremism George Floyd police reform bill reintroduced in House MORE (N.Y.), as well as the top Democrats in both chambers' immigration subcommittees, Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinFBI director set for combative hearing on mob attack No. 2 Senate Democrat shoots down overruling parliamentarian on minimum wage Senate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill MORE (Ill.) and Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenCurator estimates Capitol art damage from mob totals K Architect of the Capitol considering display on Jan. 6 riot Lawmakers say they are 'targets,' ask to boost security MORE (Calif.).

The Democrats wrote in the letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfSunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Liberal watchdog group files ethics complaint over Boebert's reimbursements Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides 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.