Courtesy of Congressman Jimmy Panetta’s office:
Congressman Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) joined five other members of Congress today to introduce the Keep Families Together Act, H.R. 6135, to protect children from being needlessly separated from their parents at the border. This bill is the House companion to the Keep Families Together Act, which was introduced in the Senate by Senator Dianne Feinstein.
“The Administration’s new ‘zero-tolerance’ policy purposefully separates mothers, fathers, and children without any reunification plan. This disheartening policy demeans what we stand for and who we are as a nation. Intentionally separating children from their parents to deter immigration, punish asylum seekers, or leverage resources for a border wall is vindictive and wrong,” said Congressman Panetta. “Past Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had the option to needlessly separate families at the border, but they also had the compassion and common-sense not to implement this type of policy. Democrats and Republicans are calling for the Administration to end this compassionless policy. However, given Executive inaction, Congress must work together and take a stand. That is why my colleagues and I are introducing the Keep Families Together Act, to protect children from being needlessly separated from their parents.”
The House bill will:
- Keep Families Together: The bill promotes family unity by prohibiting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials from separating children from their parents, except in extraordinary circumstances.
- Establish Public Policy Preference for Family Reunification: The bill establishes a preference for family unity, discourages the separation of siblings, and creates a presumption that detention is not in the best interests of families and children.
- Codify our commitment to the Refugee protocol prohibiting the criminal punishment of those seeking protection from persecution.
- Increase Child Welfare Training: The bill requires all Customs and Border Protection officers and agents to complete child welfare training on an annual basis.
- Add Procedures for Separated Families: The bill requires DHS to develop policies and procedures allowing parents and children to locate each other and reunite if they have been separated.
- Establish Other Required Measures: In order to inform Congressional oversight and promote public understanding of the use family separation, the bill requires a report on the separation of families every six months.
The bill’s co-authors include Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY), Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA), Ranking Member on the Immigration Subcommittee, Rep. Ted W. Lieu (CA), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA), and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (IL).