WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson announced substantial changes to immigrant detention practices regarding families, a positive response to calls by Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a fierce advocate for ensuring that family unity remains the guiding principle of our immigration system, to change our nation’s treatment of vulnerable families:
“My mother brought me and my brother to America when I was a young girl to have a chance at a better life. I know firsthand how important it is for our immigration system to address the challenges women and their children face. Last year, I traveled to the border to see the humanitarian crisis on the border involving unaccompanied children from Central America firsthand. My colleagues and I were heartbroken after seeing children as young as seven being held in Customs and Border Protection facilities, and have pushed the Administration to do better for these children and their families. In recent months, as more children began fleeing violence in their home countries with their mothers and relatives, we have seen an alarming shift towards the detention of families— in a break from longstanding federal policy and in contradiction with our values as a country.
“Today’s announcement that the Department of Homeland Security will make significant changes regarding detention for families is good news. We shouldn’t treat families and children who have fled violence and are qualified to receive legal protections like criminals. Action by the Administration is very welcome, but we can do so much more, including ending family detention completely. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that our immigration system is broken and as President Obama has acknowledged, only legislation can truly fix the problem. As a nation of immigrants, we must continue working to make sure that all who come here are treated humanely and in accordance with our shared values. Now is the time that we should be working together on commonsense, family focused, comprehensive immigration reform that is supported by the vast majority of Americans.”
Last fall, Senator Hirono and nine other Senate Democrats wrote to Secretary Jeh Johnson to press him on DHS’s plans to expand the immigration detention system. Senator Hirono and Senate Democrats again called for an end to family detention in a letter to Secretary Johnson earlier this month.