The Keep Families Together Act, numbered S. 3036, is the Democratic legislative proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to end the current practice of separating children from parents detained for crossing the border illegally. The bill includes the following provision:
“An agency may not remove a child from a parent or legal guardian solely for the policy goal of deterring individuals from migrating to the United States or for the policy goal of promoting compliance with civil immigration laws.”
The bill includes exceptions if a state court, state or county child welfare agency, or the Chief Patrol Agent or Area Port Director determines separation is in the best interest for the safety of the child, such as in cases of human trafficking or abuse. It requires a written explanation for separation in such cases.
Additionally the bill would:
- Require all agents and officers be given evidence-based training to make those decisions “with an emphasis on the best interests of the child, childhood trauma, attachment, and child development.”
- Require public guidance, in English and Spanish, instructing parents on how to locate their child in the event of separation. It would also require that separated parents be given a monthly update on the activities, health, and immigration status of their child.
- Require an annual report with details on each case of separation, as well as a Government Accountability Office study on the prosecution of asylum seekers from 2008 to 2018.
What supporters say
Sen. Feinstein issued a press release explaining that the bill was written with consultation from child welfare experts, and outlining support for her bill from legislative advocates and other Democratic senators.
“The United States must not be a country that traumatizes young children by separating them from their parents,” said Feinstein.
What opponents say
While no Republicans have been outspoken against Feinstein’s bill, they also have not signed on to it. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) issued a press release that he would be introducing his own bill, while in the House Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC11) introduced another bill which we covered here.
Odds of Passage
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday that he and congressional Republicans want to end the policy of separating families at the border. However, he noted that any such legislative fix would have to be narrowly tailored, in order to pass with the required nine votes of Democratic support. The Trump Administration instead prefers a much broader package also tackling border security and “the wall.”