Skip to content

July 12, 2019

King Seeking to Halt Cruel and Neglectful Treatment of Children at Border Through Legislation With Colleagues

PORTLAND, ME – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced his support of the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act, which would put an end to the administration’s cruel and neglectful treatment of children at the U.S.-Mexico border and reform how children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border are treated between the moment at which they arrive at the U.S. border to claim asylum and the ultimate resolution of their asylum case. The bill comes on the heels of media reports that detail the horrific conditions facing children held at the border.

“Our nation is founded on a number of basic principles, some of which are stated unequivocally on the base of the Statue of Liberty,” said Senator King. “‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’ That is the American promise – but the horrifying reports of the treatment being endured by children detained at the Southern border make it clear that we are not living up to that promise. I cannot comprehend how anyone believes that it is acceptable to treat a child in such an inhumane way; if we are to truly live our values, we have to reverse these awful policies immediately.”

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, not the child of an accompanying adult, or in danger of abuse or neglect;
  • Setting minimum health and safety standards for children and families in Border Patrol Stations. These standards mandate access to hygiene products including toothbrushes, diapers, soap and showers, require that children receive three meals a day that meet USDA nutrition standards and a prompt medical assessment by trained medical providers.
  • Ending for-profit contractors from operating new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) standard shelters or influx facilities.

In addition, the bill ensures that temporary influx facilities are state-licensed, meet federal standards, and are not used to house children indefinitely. The legislation also removes 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 have access to legal counsel, and are moved out of detention centers and into community-based settings—usually, sponsored by family members—as soon as possible.

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.

The Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act is cosponsored by 38 other Senators. A section-by-section breakdown of the bill is available here and a one-pager is available here

Next Article » « Previous Article