Pa. governor demands details about ICE family separations in Philadelphia

Pa. governor demands details about ICE family separations in Philadelphia
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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is requesting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provide details on all children in the state who have been separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Wolf said in a letter Monday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) separated at least three migrant families from at least four children who are U.S. citizens.

Wolf asked DHS acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan for an account of “each child separated from their parents during 2019.” The governor shared the letter on Twitter. 

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“This is absolutely irresponsible. Even worse, we are not aware that proper child welfare protocols — or even common sense — were used to ensure safe and legal guardianship for these minor children,” Wolf wrote.

“There are very few scenarios I can imagine where inflicting this trauma on children would be justified unless both of the parents pose a serious threat to the children or others. Was this the case? If not, this is as unnecessary as it is callous.”

Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott told The Associated Press the separations occurred in Philadelphia late last month. At least two of the children have since been reunited with their parents, Abbott told the AP.

Along with the accounts of separated children, Wolf asked McAleenan to describe the steps taken by DHS to assure the children’s safety and well-being.

He also requested ICE “immediately halt any enforcement activities” in Pennsylvania that "result in temporary or permanent separation of children until your agency can publicly produce a protocol for ensuring the welfare of children in Pennsylvania.”

“I will continue to explore every legal avenue to protect children in Pennsylvania if your agency is not capable of doing so,” Wolf said.

ICE said any potential agency response to Wolf's letter would come through the appropriate channels when contacted by The Hill, though it added that it is "fully committed" to enforcing the country's immigration laws "fairly and safely."

"ICE conduct targeted enforcement operations in compliance with federal law and agency policy in Pennsylvania and across the nation," ICE officials said in an emailed statement. 
 
"ICE is fully committed to the enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws, and the enforcement actions ICE employs are intended to accomplish this fairly and safely. When ICE arrests someone with a child or children, ICE exercises discretion, to ensure there is someone available to care for the child/children, consistent with local, state, and federal law enforcement conventions and protocols.

Wolf said his request to DHS echoes nationwide concerns after reports and videos of children separated from parents in Mississippi last week during ICE raids.

Nearly 700 employees were detained in a raid that immigration officials said was part of a large criminal investigation aimed at employers exploiting migrant workers. McAleenan said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the raids were done "with sensitivity."

He said about 30 people were released on site at a food processing plant and more were released later for humanitarian reasons.

-- Updated at 4:53 p.m.