Washington, DC — Statement by KIND President Wendy Young:
Thank you, Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) for introducing this critical legislation, the REUNITE Act, which would restore compassion to the U.S. immigration system by ensuring that children are afforded the opportunity to reunify with their parents. It is time to stop the cruelty of punishing innocent families who have committed no crime but have simply asked the US for protection from the violence that plagues their home countries. It is time to remember that what makes America truly great is our adherence to the principles of due process and fundamental fairness and our support for human rights.
For the thousands of children who are still separated from their parents, reunification cannot come soon enough. These children, many of whom fled horrific violence in their home countries, deserve our government’s best efforts and protection–not the trauma inflicted upon them by continued separation from those they need most. In our work at KIND we regularly work with children ranging from toddlers to teenagers who have suffered rape, abduction, and the murder of friends and family. We need to treat these children humanely not inflict further harm on them. About three weeks ago, KIND staff reported that they had met with a mother detained in the Port Isabel detention center. She was frantic—her four children had been torn away from her when she arrived at the border—the youngest was six months old. She had no idea where they were.
The Reunite Every Unaccompanied Newborn Infant Toddler and Other Children Expeditiously Act (REUNITE) would require that guidance be in place to ensure the swift reunification of separated families, and that parents and children can communicate with one another until they are back together. It would facilitate critical access to attorneys and other service providers who can provide families with the assistance they need to make informed decisions and to navigate their legal cases. This bill would mandate that parents who have already been deported be identified and ensure that others are not removed before having an opportunity to consult with legal counsel.
We know that there are more effective and cost-efficient alternatives to the cruel practice of separating and detaining families. The REUNITE Act would restore successful programs like the Family Case Management Program so that families can access vital community-based services to address their needs while ensuring their appearance at immigration court proceedings.
The United States is a country that respects the rule of law. We are a country that recognizes that a child’s happiness and well-being starts in the arms of a loving family. The zero tolerance policy has shocked the conscience of many and served to remind us of these basic values. The REUNITE Act would restore those bedrock principles to our immigration system.
Media Contact: Megan McKenna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-631-9990