“Trying to ‘discourage’ people fleeing violence and extreme poverty from seeking safety in the U.S. by threatening to take their children away from them is unconscionable,” they wrote in a Wednesday letter addressed to Kelly.
“DHS forcing children into shelters or foster care when their mothers or fathers are with them would be inhumane and runs contrary to American values,” the trio added.
“Again, we urge you to reject this cruel and misguided policy. To do otherwise would be a black mark in the history of not just [the Department of Homeland Security], but of America.”
Wednesday’s letter was signed by Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the ranking member of House Homeland Security Committee; Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaMembers of Congress not running for reelection in 2022 Lobbying world Democrats brace for flood of retirements after Virginia rout MORE (D-Texas), the ranking member of the committee’s Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee; and Donald Payne Jr.Donald Milford Payne Jr.Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Harris hops past Biden in early race for Black Caucus support New Jersey Dems tell Pentagon not to use military funds for border wall MORE (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the committee’s Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communication Subcommittee.
They said Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, should know firsthand the dangers driving immigration from Central America.
“As former commander of U.S. Southern Command, you have acknowledged the ‘unimaginable violence’ so many of these families are fleeing in Central America. Certainly, parents would not undertake such a journey with their children if the situation at home was not absolutely dire.”
Kelly confirmed Monday that he is mulling whether children and parents caught crossing the border illegally should be separated.
“I would do almost anything to deter people from Central America to getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings people through Mexico to the United States,” he told CNN.
“We turn them over to [the Department of Health and Human Services] and they do a very, very good job of either putting them in foster care or linking them up in relatives in the United States,” Kelly added when asked if he was proposing splitting family units.
Reports emerged last week that DHS may put children in protective custody while their parents await deportation orders under detention.
Family units are normally released after being caught by border enforcement officials while they await immigration proceedings, due to regulations prohibiting the long-term detention of minors.
President Trump campaigned on a pledge to end such “catch and release” immigration policies and has called for tighter security at America’s borders.