Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, has introduced legislation to prevent future separations of children and parents at the country’s borders, in response to the recent controversy over the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy.
The bill would use $50 million to construct facilities to safely and securely hold families while processing their legal status, and require the Department of Homeland Security to maintain the care and custody of those families.
“America is a nation under the rule of law, and for very real economic and national security reasons, we cannot have people violating our immigration laws and entering the country illegally,” Knight said in a prepared statement. “At the same time, however, we are also a compassionate and caring country with a common respect for human dignity as part of our national identity. Recent reports of children, especially those at young ages, who have been separated from their parents without any indication of when or if they will be reunited, deeply disturbed me and many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”
The bill would not hinder any ability to enforce immigration laws, Knight said, nor prevent children from being taken from clearly abusive parents. But it would prohibit “unjust family separation,” which he said, “does not reflect our national character.”
After political pressure from both sides of the aisle, President Trump issued an executive order on Wednesday that ended the policy of separating families.
A fact sheet issued by the White House said the administration seeks to replace the family separation policy with a policy allowing for the detention of families while keeping them together.
While the recent decision halted the practice, without legislative action, any future administration or court decision could reverse the decision, Knight said in an interview.
“While I am relieved that the administration has issued an order to end this practice, it is clear that prohibitions against unjust family separation must be written into law,” he said.