Three Congressional members have penned a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly asking he reconsider his plan that would separate undocumented children from their parents who cross illegally at the Mexico-United States border.
The letter, submitted Wednesday, is signed by U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela, Bennie G. Thompson and Donald M. Payne Jr., all Democrats and members of the U.S House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security.
“Trying to ‘discourage’ people fleeing violence and
extreme poverty from seeking safety in the U.S. by threatening to take their children away from them is unconscionable,” a portion of the letter reads.
“ As former commander of U.S. Southern Command, you have acknowledged the ‘unimaginable violence’ so many of these families are fleeing in Central America. Certainly, parents would not undertake such a journey with the children if the situation at home was not absolutely dire,” it goes onto state.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent a similar letter to Kelly as well.
Kelly has said such a move would be a broader effort to discourage families from making the dangerous trip from Mexico to the United States.
“ I would do almost anything to deter the people from Central America getting on this very, very dangerous network … going through Mexico,” Kelly said during a television interview, The Associated Press reported.
The three Congressional members believe forcing the children into a shelter or foster care when their parents are with them would be “inhumane” and does not reflect the American values. According to the letter, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned that separating the children from their parents, siblings and other relatives would cause “additional stress” to the minor children.
“ We ask you to heed this warning, and instead find other ways to address the humanitarian situation on the border.”
It was not immediately known if Kelly had received a copy of the letter Wednesday.
Homeland Security officials have tried to curb the flow of undocumented children since 2014, when thousands of children crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. According to Pew Research, “There were 32,117 apprehensions of family members — defined as children traveling with at least one parent or guardian — during the first six months of fiscal 2016 (October 2015 to March 2016). By comparison, apprehensions of unaccompanied children totaled 27,754 over the same period.”
Many of the children and their families passed through the Sacred Heart Humanitarian Center in McAllen after federal agents apprehended them in the area.
According to the AP, Kelly has said if families are separated at the border, the child would be “well cared for” by government officials.