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Hirono, Senate Democrats Call Attention to Treatment of Children at the Border

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) led a Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) hearing to investigate the deteriorating conditions at the United States’ southern border, as well as reports of abuse and cruelty in border detention facilities.

At the hearing – titled “America Speaks Out: Stop Trump’s Cruel Treatment of Children at the Border” – the Senators heard testimony from medical, legal, and policy experts who recently visited the border and observed the conditions at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities and other government facilities that hold children. Despite widespread attention and outcry about the worsening conditions at CBP facilities and the growing humanitarian crisis at the border, U.S. Senate Republicans have continued to refuse to hold hearings or investigations pertaining to the unsafe and unsanitary conditions for children at the southern border.

From Senator Hirono’s Remarks:

“The Trump administration falsely claims it has no choice but to treat migrants in this way because the immigration system is overwhelmed, but there is always a choice to treat people humanely.”

“It was the Trump administration’s choice to subject children and families to prolonged detention, instead of using effective alternatives to detention or releasing them on their own recognizance. It was the Trump administration’s choice to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign aid to Northern Triangle countries that would have mitigated the root causes of migration.”

Earlier this Congress, Senator Hirono introduced several bills to address the conditions at the southern border including S. 661, the Child Trafficking Victims Protection and Welfare Act of 2019, which expands protections for vulnerable migrant children while they are in the custody of CBP. Senator Hirono, along with 20 of her U.S. Senate colleagues, also introduced, S. 662, the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, which provides unaccompanied children with access to legal representation when they appear in removal proceedings before an immigration judge. Senator Hirono is also an original co-sponsor of S. 2113, the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act, which would end the Trump administration’s treatment of children at the U.S.-Mexico border and reform how children fleeing persecution are treated when they arrive at the border to claim asylum.

Senator Hirono previously joined Senate Democrats in May to introduce S. 1445, the Central America Reform and Enforcement Act, which would address the root causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to the United States. The ongoing violence has driven children and families to flee to and seek refuge in the United States.