U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) announced new legislation today with Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and 25 other Senators called the Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act, which requires that children and their parents remain together during their legal proceedings. Portman issued the following statement:
“As I have said for the last several weeks, separating children from their parents is counter to our values, so I’m pleased the administration has agreed to keep families apprehended at the border together. We can have strong border security without separating parents from their children. The reality, however, is that this executive order may be subject to litigation almost immediately and that’s why Congress needs to enact a legislative solution that addresses the Flores settlement agreement, which requires children to be kept in the least restrictive setting possible.
“Today I joined with my colleagues in introducing legislation to provide much-needed legal certainty and solve this problem once and for all. The bill will override the Flores settlement agreement with regard to parents and their children who are apprehended at the border, and ensure that families are kept together during their immigration enforcement proceedings. Moreover, this legislation will help expedite these enforcement cases by expediting the cases of families in detention. It also provides more immigration judges and increases resources to ensure we have the infrastructure in place to care for these families and children properly. I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation and fix this problem.”
NOTE: The Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act includes provisions to ensure the humane and fair treatment of migrant children and families by setting mandatory standards of care for family residential centers. Families will be ensured access to suitable living accommodations, food and water, medical assistance, and other services necessary for their care.
In addition to keeping children and their parents together, the legislation also keeps children safe by requiring children to be removed from an individual who presents a danger to the health and safety of the child, including: situations in which DHS cannot verify an individual is the parent of the child; a parent with a violent history of committing aggravated felonies; a child who is a victim of sexual or domestic abuse; a child who is a victim of trafficking.
To prioritize the timely adjudication of family cases, the legislation authorizes 225 new immigration judges and requires the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to prioritize resolving the cases of children and families in family residential centers.
Unlike other proposals – which incentivize illegal immigration by codifying “catch and release” policies into law – this legislation actually solves the problem by keeping families together while also ensuring the integrity of our immigration laws.