Published: Thu, August 02, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Immigration officials defend handling of family separations

Immigration officials defend handling of family separations

The most stunning revelation: the Department of Health and Human Services official who's been heading up reunifications said he'd warned about the dangers of family separation over the past year. The associate director of refugee, asylum, and global operations at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Higgins continued, "It's hard to put myself in the position of an individual who takes a unsafe journey in which their child could be harmed, let alone whether I would send my children".

A Department of Health and Human Services official says his agency warned the Trump administration that separating migrant families at the border would be risky for children. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in opening a hearing to review the family separation policy.

Asked to describe the so-called family residential centers where kids and parents are held, the head of enforcement and removal for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the facilities are "more like a summer camp" than a jail.

"I think the best way to describe them is to be more like a summer camp", Albence told the panel, as he described "24/7" access to fresh food and water, educational classes, outdoor recreational opportunities and exercise. The separations were in place from early May until Trump stopped the practice last month in the face of intense global criticism.

White's remarks came as the Judiciary committee questioned officials about what has become an election-year liability for the Republicans and the White House - President Donald Trump's separation of migrant children from detained families.

Officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies planned to testify. Since children could not stay in those facilities, the government transferred them to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Acting Chief Carla L. Provost of the U.S. Border Patrol says, "We do not leave our humanity behind when we report for duty". "Obviously that's unacceptable." Lawmakers and activists have also focused on some 400 children who remain in detention because their parents were deported.

"We ought to be disturbed".

Albence responded it was a voluntary work program individuals could participate in while they wait for their hearing. Under questioning by Illinois Democratic Sen. No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of IL said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen should resign and that someone "has to accept responsibility" for policies that show "the extremes this administration will go to". The parents of 431 of those kids have already been deported, while the parents of 120 children waived their right to reunify with them.

But, doubling down, Trump tweeted Sunday that "there are consequences when people cross our Border illegally", and that many people "are just using children for their own sinister purposes". Richard Durbin, Albence says the agency has records documenting decisions by hundreds of migrant parents to leave the US without their children.

White called a family's decision to leave children behind "a desperate last act of a parent" that he said is "unfathomable until you've walked in those parents' shoes".

Twenty-four-year-old Dunia of Honduras embraces her 5-year-old son Wuilman at Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport in Brownsville, Texas, on July 20, 2018, as they were reunited after being separated from each other for more than 30 days. Lawyers for the administration have until Thursday to say how they plan to reunify about 550 children who are still separated from their parents - including more than 400 parents who have been deported, and dozens more who were released into the USA without their children. He said congressional critics "offer no plausible or workable solution at all".

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