Press Release

As DHS Continues To Tear Children Away From Their Parents At The Border, Gillibrand Speaks On Senate Floor, Calls On Trump Administration To End Cruel Family Separation Policy

Jun 18, 2018

**WATCH Senator Gillibrand’s Speech on the Senate Floor HERE**

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today took to the Senate floor to speak out against the Trump Administration’s inhumane practice of separating children from their parents as families enter into the United States. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has confirmed that federal officials removed over 2,000 minors from adult custody between May 5th and June 9th. In most cases, families are unaware of where their children have been sent. Gillibrand called on the Trump Administration to end this cruel practice and urged her colleagues in Congress to hold the Administration accountable and let families stay together.

Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as delivered:

I rise to speak about a humanitarian crisis happening right now in our country at the border. Something that I implore my colleagues to fight to stop.

The Department of Homeland Security is tearing young children away from the arms of their parents.

They are traumatizing infants and children.

And Congress needs to urgently act.

M. President, I know that we have disagreements about immigration policy in this chamber, and I know we have our disagreements about how we should fix our immigration system, which we’ve desperately needed to fix for decades.

But surely we must be able to agree that federal agents should not be tearing young children from the arms of their parents.

We must be able to agree that families with infants should not be forcibly separated.

Where is the outrage? Where is the urgency?

I hear my colleagues speak all the time about federal government overreach.

Well, if this isn’t federal government overreach, what is?

This is the moment that they have gone too far.

One mother was breastfeeding her infant. A federal agency took that baby out of her mother’s arms, handcuffed her, arrested her.

M. President, where is that baby now? How is that baby doing? Where is the baby’s mother?

From mid-April through the end of last month, almost two thousand children were separated from adults at the border.

Nearly 50 times a day, on American soil, our government has separated a child from their parents, creating fear and terror in their lives.

And just today, it was reported that the Department of Homeland Security is now holding 11,785 minors.

11,785 minors. This is a disgrace.

One worker at a detention center for children just resigned as a conscientious objector, and he described the children being held there as “a traumatized population that has no clue what is going on.”

He said his staff wasn’t at all prepared to look after four- and five-year-olds that are coming to these detention centers.

He said the kids are screaming and crying for their moms and dads.

Pediatricians, M. President, who have met these children are calling it “government-sanctioned child abuse.”

Pediatricians are calling it “government-sanctioned child abuse.”

One of our colleagues in the House was able to meet with mothers whose children had been taken from them at the border.

She said that in some cases, the mothers were, quote, “literally sitting in a room next door to where the children were being held, and could hear their own children screaming.”

M. President, have we not even studied our own history?

Because this is the kind of thing that we read about in history books, and shake our heads in disgust.

We ask ourselves, “How did they let that happen?”

We ask ourselves, “Why didn’t Congress stop it? Why didn’t anyone do anything?”

Do we not remember what happened during World War II with the Japanese internment camps?

Children were traumatized, families were damaged, in some cases permanently.

The memorial to remind us of this is a stone’s throw from the U.S. Capitol, just for the purpose of reminding us to never do this again.

We cannot let our country go down that dark road again.

But if Congress does not stop the out-of-control Department of Homeland Security, if Congress does not stop families from being torn apart, even though it’s happening right in front of our eyes,

Then this Congress will go down in history as a weak Congress that did nothing to stop one of the worst, horrific chapters of American history.

This has to be the moment we do our jobs. We stand up. Speak truth to power. Do the right thing.

We don’t know how many young children will be traumatized for the rest of their lives because of our actions.

These young children will never forget that when they first came to America, they were separated from their mothers and their fathers.

M. President, the President of the United States is not telling the truth about this policy to the American people.

It is just not true that this immoral and repulsive practice of separating children from their parents is a mandatory result of existing law.

It’s just not true.

This is the stated practice and policy of zero tolerance by this administration.

It is abhorrent. It is immoral. And the administration could stop this all by themselves today if they wanted to.

But since they won’t, Congress needs to act.

If this Congress can’t or won’t push back against this administration when it’s actually harming children, when will it act?

I urge my colleagues to come together right now to stop this stain on our nation. 

We have a bill, it was introduced by Senator Feinstein. We already have 49 cosponsors.

We should vote on that bill.

It would protect the welfare of children. It would make sure that children would not be separated from their parents and the only time they would be separated from their parents, or the adults they are with, if they are being trafficked or abused.

Otherwise families should be allowed to stay together.

M. President, we should do the right thing. This is a moral issue. This is a humanitarian issue. This is an issue of right versus wrong.

As a mother, as a legislator, I can’t imagine the terror that these parents face, to not know what is going to happen to their children.

It is wrong of us to stand by silently. It is wrong of us to do nothing. This is what the darkness looks like.

We have to stand up against it.

I yield the floor.