On Thursday, March 9, more than 80 members of Congress signed onto a letter to denounce a suggestion by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly that the Department might look at foster care placements as an enforcement tool regarding immigration.

At a press conference, led by Congressperson Karen Bass (D-CA), several members of Congress addressed reporters to criticize Kelley’s comments. CWLA participated in the press conference with brief comments. The letter and remarks at the press briefing emphasized the members concerns and opposition to the idea.

The letter specifically stated, “As Members of Congress dedicated to working to improve the state of child welfare in America, this raises, not only serious ethical and humanitarian questions, but also concerns about overwhelming an already overburdened, underfunded and struggling system. In addition, it is seriously troubling that parents could be prosecuted for human trafficking if they facilitate the unlawful entry of their minor children into the United States, as outlined in the recent DHS enforcement memorandum.”

In a Monday interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, the reporter asked about an earlier report by Reuters that the Trump Administration is considering separating migrant parents and children who cross the border.  Blitzer asked, “If you get some young kids who manage to sneak into the United States with their parents are Department of Homeland Security personnel going to separate the children from their moms and dads?’  Kelley responded by saying “We have tremendous experience in dealing with unaccompanied minors.  We turn them over to HHS, and they do a very, very good job of either putting them into foster care or linking them up with parents and families in the United States.  He went on to say “Yes, I am considering, in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network, I am considering exactly that.  They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents.”

Congressperson Bass emphasized both the punitive nature of the comments and expressed concern about such a policy and its effect on an underfunded child welfare system. Those comments were also expressed by other members of Congress joining the briefing included Rep. Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Representative Judy Chu (D-CA), Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI), Representative Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA) and Representative Brenda Lawrence (D-MI).