WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined fellow Senate Democrats to introduce the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act. This new legislation, supported by more than three dozen senators, would put an end to the Trump Administration’s cruel and neglectful treatment of children at the U.S.-Mexico border and reform how children fleeing persecution are treated between the moment at which they arrive at our borders to claim asylum and the ultimate resolution of their asylum case.
“The senseless inhumane treatment of children and families at the border must end immediately,” said Murphy and Blumenthal. “Through policies of fear and cruelty, this administration has caused irreparable damage to children at the border by separating families, denying them access to basic hygiene, and disregarding proper health and nutrition standards. This legislation reaffirms our core American belief that we are a nation that welcomes and is strengthened by immigrants.”
The Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act would create clear, non-negotiable standards for the treatment of children in America’s care, including:
- Ending family separations except when authorized by a state court or child welfare agency, or when Customs and Border Protection and an independent child welfare specialist agree that a child is a trafficking victim, is not the child of an accompanying adult, or is in danger of abuse or neglect;
- Setting minimum health and safety standards for children and families in Border Patrol Stations.
- The bill requires access to hygiene products including toothbrushes, diapers, soap and showers, regular nutritious meals, and a prompt medical assessment by trained medical providers.
- Requiring children receive three meals a day that meet USDA nutrition standards.
- Ending for-profit contractors from operating new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) standard shelters or influx facilities.
- The bill ensures that temporary influx facilities are state-licensed, meet Flores standards, and are not used to house children indefinitely.
- Expanding alternatives to detention and the successful Family Case Management Program.
- Removing roadblocks to placing unaccompanied children with sponsors by lowering case manager caseloads, mandating lower staffing ratios, and ending the information sharing agreement between ORR and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
- These provisions would ensure that children are moved out of detention centers and into community-based settings—usually, sponsored by family members—as soon as possible.
- Ensuring unaccompanied children have access to legal counsel and continue to be placed in a non-adversarial setting for their initial asylum case review.
Additionally, the legislation would provide resources to non-profit centers that are helping to provide humanitarian assistance, and improve public oversight of the conditions children are being held in by allowing members of Congress and their staff, along with credentialed press (without cameras), to visit any facility with 24 hours’ notice.
A section-by-section breakdown of the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act is available here and a one-pager is available here. In addition to Murpy, Blumenthal, and Menendez, the legislation is supported by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai'i), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Michael Bennet (D-Col.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Angus King (I-Maine), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).