April 26, 2021

Castro & Blumenthal Reintroduce the Families Belong Together Act to Reunite Separated Migrant Families

WASHINGTON — Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), a member of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Education and Labor Committees, and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reintroduced legislation to reunite the thousands of immigrant children and families who were separated by the Trump Administration’s cruel 2018 family separation policy. As of April 7th, 2021, likely more than a thousand children have yet to be reunited with their families, and the parents of 445 children have not even been located. The Families Belong Together Act works to swiftly reunite those families on U.S. soil and provides the survivors of the family separation policy with a pathway to citizenship.

“The Trump Administration’s cruel family separation policy will go down in history as one of America’s worst moments,” said Congressman Castro. “While we know we can never fully do right by the children who will be forever traumatized by this political decision, the Families Belong Together Act is the bare minimum our nation owes the families who separated as an apology and a promise to do right by them. As the Biden Administration works to reunite the remaining separated children with their families, our legislation will ensure that formerly separated children and their families are able to build the new lives in America that they endured so much horror to achieve.”

“Our bicameral bill would provide the victims of the Trump Administration’s barbaric family separation policy with legal status and a path to citizenship, giving them opportunity to rebuild their families in safety,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Under President Trump’s direction, the U.S. government orphaned children for the explicit purpose of causing their families pain. No matter your politics, no one should confuse that kind of intentional cruelty with effective immigration enforcement. This bill is a critical first step towards righting the wrong of family separation.”

The Families Belong Together Act would provide permanent protection to the victims of the family separation policy by:

  • Providing humanitarian parole to eligible parents and children to ensure that families can be reunited in the United States.
  • Establishing a process by which eligible parents and children can be adjusted to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.
  • Ensures that this process grants quick relief, by specifying that the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has 30 days to make the determination regarding the adjustment of eligible parents and children to LPR status.
  • Authorizing $5 million to the Department of State to ensure separated families are located and provided information about the opportunities to safely reunite.
  • Authorizing $5 million to the Department of Justice in order to educate parents and children through the Legal Orientation Program. 

“KIND knows first-hand the intense suffering and life-long impact family separation has had on the families we serve and the children we represent,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “Reuniting children and parents so cruelly taken from each other is the least we can do to help them begin to move past the trauma inflicted upon them by the previous administration. While we cannot give them back their lost time together, we can—and must—provide support services and a fair chance to make their legal case for U.S. protection.”

“My son and I are deeply grateful to Senator Blumenthal and Representative Castro for listening to the voices of families that were separated at the border and for introducing this proposal to change the lives of families like ours,” said Leticia Peren, an indigenous Guatemalan mother and member of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), who was separated from her son for over 2 years. “This legislation recognizes the pain and trauma families like ours have been through - and that we deserve the peace of mind of being able to live in the U.S. safely and together.”

“The Trump administration’s family separation practice caused irreparable trauma to parents, children, and communities writ large. While we will never fully right these wrongs, the Families Belong Together Act is critical legislation to begin addressing the harm our government inflicted on the families it separated,” said Yesenia Chavez, Policy Analyst for Immigrants’ Rights at the American Civil Liberties Union.“These families must be reunited in the United States and provided citizenship, resources, care, and a commitment that family separation will never happen again. We applaud the sponsors of this bill and call on members of Congress to support this critical legislation.”  

“The Women’s Refugee Commission strongly supports the Families Belong Together Act. This legislation would ensure that families who were forcibly and cruelly separated from one another by the Trump administration would be able to safely reunite in the United States,” said Leah Chavla, Esq., the Senior Policy Advisor for Migrant Rights and Justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “It is the right thing to do and would begin to remedy the many harms that these families have endured.”  

"Although far too many immigrant and refugee families are still being separated, the Trump administration wielded family separation as an unthinkably immoral weapon to scare people from fleeing to the United States to live in safety,” said Sunil Varghese, Policy Director, International Refugee Assistance Project. “Providing relief for these parents and children, who have experienced this cruel treatment, is an urgent humanitarian reason that justifies the use of humanitarian parole, as envisioned in this bill. Humanitarian parole presents an immediate avenue for rectifying this wrong through family reunification."

 “The Families Belong Together Act would provide hope and healing to the families affected by the trauma of separation,” said Cathleen Caron, Executive Director of Justice in Motion. “Members of the Justice in Motion Defender Network in Central America have spent years locating and supporting parents who were ripped apart from their children and deported without them. We know firsthand the urgent need for Congress to provide these families with a pathway to citizenship so that they can safely start their healing process together in the United States.”

“The separation of families at the border by the Trump administration has caused immeasurable harm to thousands of parents and children,” said Jorge Loweree, Director of Policy at the American Immigration Council. “The Families Belong Together Act would work to reunify these families and provide them with permanent immigration status in the U.S. This bill represents a great first step in working to address the harms created by our government.

The legislation is endorsed by Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), American Immigration Council, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), Justice in Motion, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Project Lifeline, First Focus Campaign for Children, Church World Service, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), Women’s Refugee Commission, Center for Victims of Torture, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, Amnesty International USA, the Immigration Hub, National Immigration Project, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Domestic Workers Alliance, Southern Border Communities Coalition, Aldea – The People’s Justice Center, Make the Road New York, Hispanic Federation, The Center for the Study of Social Policy, Center for American Progress, National Council of Jewish Women, Central American Resource Center of Northern California, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, National Education Association (NEA), Bridges Faith Initiative, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Al Otro Lado, The Advocates for Human Rights, Latin America Working Group (LAWG), MomsRising, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (National Farmworker Women's Alliance), HIAS, Anti-Defamation League, Oxfam America, Project Lifeline, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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