Trump insists US will not lift Russian sanctions

Asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., what response HHS officials got from administration policymakers, White said, "The answer was there was no policy which would result in separation of children from family units".

But some of the government's top immigration officials used the hearing Tuesday to defend how the policy has been implemented, with one comparing family detention centers to "a summer camp".

DICK DURBIN: The family separation policy is more than a bureaucratic lapse in judgment. "But public reports ... indicate that many of them may not have made an informed choice to leave their children behind", Grassley said.

"We do not leave our humanity behind when we report for duty", Carla L. Provost, acting chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, told members of the committee.

"During the deliberative process over the previous year, we raised a number of concerns in the (Office of Refugee Resettlement) program about any policy which would result in family separation due to concerns we had about the best interests of the child as well as about whether that would be operationally supportable with the bed capacity that we had", White said.

A top Health and Human Services official said the agency had warned the administration that separating children from their parents would be detrimental to their health. He also cited reports that immigrants have experienced sexual and other abuse at some government detention facilities and said those held must be treated humanely.

The latest number of immigrant children who remain in detention and apart from their parents stands at 711, according to the Department of Homeland Security. "However like many well-intentioned policies, there were unintended consequences", Grassley said. But Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the problem has become so acute, and the collective disgust so widespread, that Congress needs to put aside its long history of inaction and get to work.

A federal judge on Friday urged the USA government to focus on finding deported immigrant parents whose children remain in the United States. A combination of USA laws and a 1997 court settlement prevent children from staying in detention centers for more than 20 days, which prompted the Trump administration to separate the families.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the number of parents illegally entering the USA with their children, mostly from Central America, has skyrocketed in recent years. For the public health service, parents leaving without their children undergo an interview and then sign a form designating who will care for the children, White said.

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. The separations were in place from early May until Trump stopped the practice last month in the face of intense global criticism. He said congressional critics "offer no plausible or workable solution at all".

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had announced the "zero tolerance" policy this spring that led to the separations.

Now, Judge Dana Sabraw has given the Trump administration another deadline.

"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 senators' letter, based on articles by The Associated Press and other news organizations, says the allegations suggest "a long-term pattern" of mistreatment.

  • Rogelio Becker