Home / Government / On Deadline Day to Reunite Separated Families, Udall & Senators Call for DOJ Investigation of ‘Zero Tolerance’ Immigration Policy

On Deadline Day to Reunite Separated Families, Udall & Senators Call for DOJ Investigation of ‘Zero Tolerance’ Immigration Policy

From the Office of U.S. Senator Tom Udall

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) joined Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), along with 29 other senators, in sending a letter to Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz calling for an investigation into DOJ’s role in the creation and implementation of the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General are conducting reviews of the zero-tolerance policy, and the senators wrote that the Department of Justice Inspector General should conduct his own review given the role DOJ played in the policy’s creation and implementation.

“In justifying this policy, Attorney General Sessions has said: ‘I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.  Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.’  However, the Administration’s implementation of this policy, the resulting separation of thousands of families, and the failure to promptly reunite these families have been anything but orderly and lawful,” Udall and the senators wrote. “The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General are conducting reviews of the zero-tolerance policy, and the Department of Justice should also face scrutiny for its integral role in initiating and executing the zero-tolerance policy.  Therefore we urge you to immediately launch an investigation of the Department’s role in this humanitarian crisis.”

Senators joining Udall and Durbin on today’s letter include U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Angus King (I-Maine), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Today also marks the court-ordered deadline for the Trump Administration to reunite families torn apart by President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association have condemned Trump’s child separation policy.  The President of the American Academy of Pediatrics called it, “government-sanctioned child abuse.”

In March, Udall, Durbin and 22 of their Senate colleagues pressed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Inspector General to investigate allegations that DHS is separating the children of asylum-seekers from their parents. This request followed reports of the case of a seven-year-old girl and her mother from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who were separated for more than four months after they presented themselves at the U.S. border and sought protection in accordance with the law.

Full text of today’s letter is below and can be found here.

July 26, 2018

The Honorable Michael E. Horowitz

Inspector General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C.  20530

 

Dear Inspector General Horowitz:

We respectfully request that you investigate the Department of Justice’s (Department) role in the creation and implementation of the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy.

In justifying this policy, Attorney General Sessions has said: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.  Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.” However, the Administration’s implementation of this policy, the resulting separation of thousands of families, and the failure to promptly reunite these families have been anything but orderly and lawful.

 It appears that the Attorney General announced this policy without an adequate plan or guidance for its orderly implementation.  On June 26, Judge Dana Sabraw, a federal judge in the Southern District of California, ordered the reunification of families separated under the zero-tolerance policy.  He called the Administration’s conduct “reactive governance . . . to address a chaotic circumstance of the Government’s own making,” adding that the Administration’s actions “belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution . . . [t]his is particularly so in the treatment of migrants, many of whom are asylum seekers and small children.” More than two weeks later, on July 13, Judge Sabraw again admonished the Administration for its continued “lack of foresight and infrastructure necessary to remedy the harms caused by [its family separation] practice.” The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics personally witnessed the impact of the zero-tolerance policy and characterized it as “nothing less than government-sanctioned child abuse.”

Further confusing matters, the Attorney General has made inconsistent representations about the purpose of the zero-tolerance policy.  On May 7, he stated unequivocally: “If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” implying that he knew family separation was an intended result of the zero-tolerance policy.  On June 5, when asked, “Is it absolutely necessary . . . to separate parents from children when they are detained or apprehended at the border?” he answered, “Yes.”Yet on June 21, after widespread public backlash, the Attorney General claimed that the Administration did not anticipate the separation of families, stating: “We never really intended to do that.”

We are also concerned about the public-safety impact of shifting limited law-enforcement resources to the ill-considered zero-tolerance policy.  When the Attorney General directed each U.S. Attorney’s Office along the Southwest border to immediately adopt the zero-tolerance policy, he added, “If adopting such a policy requires additional resources, each office shall identify and request such additional resources.”  The American people deserve an accounting of these resources and an examination of the public-safety and budgetary impact of the zero-tolerance policy.  For example, resources were reportedly diverted from federal drug-smuggling cases to handle immigration charges under the zero-tolerance policy.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General are conducting reviews of the zero-tolerance policy, and the Department of Justice should also face scrutiny for its integral role in initiating and executing the zero-tolerance policy. Therefore we urge you to immediately launch an investigation of the Department’s role in this humanitarian crisis.

Thank you for your time and consideration.  We look forward to a prompt response.

 Sincerely,

 

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