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Senator Dianne Feinstein: Protecting defenseless children is not an immigration ‘loophole’

 

In a powerful Washington Post op-ed, Senator Dianne Feinstein reminds the nation that we must protect children who show up at our border seeking safety.

We recap key excerpts from Senator Feinstein’s op-ed below and read the entire piece here:

I remember watching the nightly television news in the 1990s and seeing a 15-year-old Chinese girl trembling before a U.S. immigration judge. Despite having committed no crime, she was shackled and sobbing. She couldn’t speak English, and it was clear she had no understanding of what the judge was saying or what would happen to her.

Her parents had sent her to the United States in the cargo hold of a container ship because she had been born in violation of China’s rigid family-planning laws — and was therefore denied citizenship, access to health care and education.

By the time the girl appeared before the immigration judge, she had already been detained for eight months. Even more shocking: After she was granted political asylum, she was detained for four more months before she was released.

This situation would not be allowed to occur today because Congress has enacted laws to provide basic humanitarian protections to unaccompanied immigrant children.

The Trump administration recently reignited its attacks on these protections, with the president going so far as to call laws that protect helpless children “loopholes.

[ … ]

I know the intent of these laws because I authored two of them. They are not loopholes.

It’s important to understand why Congress acted to thus ensure basic human dignity for children.

The story of the Chinese girl I saw on television was not unique — mistreatment of child immigrants was widespread. Another young girl who fled China was detained in a facility that also held minors who had been convicted of murder and rape. Despite never having violated criminal law or been accused of a crime, she was routinely handcuffed and strip-searched.

young boy who fled Colombia after being targeted for recruitment by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrillas was held in the same detention facility for six months.

Children as young as 4 were held in secure prisons, isolated and forced to wear prison uniforms and shackles. Some were even placed in solitary confinement, even though they weren’t accused of any crime.

These stories, which were detailed by Human Rights Watch, illustrate decades of government mistreatment of children, and they were the genesis of laws Congress passed to guarantee minimum requirements for treating children humanely.

[ … ]

The Trump administration’s efforts to repeal protections for children are based on an ignorance of history. The only effect of repeal would be more children held in unsafe conditions at exorbitant costs to the taxpayer.

I will oppose any efforts to change these laws, and I call upon my colleagues in Congress to join me in resisting efforts to roll back protections for immigrant children.