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- A bipartisan group of former US attorneys are calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Trump administration’s policy of detaining immigrant children at the US-Mexico border.
- The letter says the attorneys were “horrified” by the policy’s “tragic and unsustainable” consequences.
- The policy has drawn growing backlash as President Donald Trump and his officials have repeated false claims about the policy’s origins.
The letter says the attorneys involved were “horrified” by the pictures and audio of wailing children who are kept in chain-link cages in detention centers. They see the policy as “dangerous, expensive, and inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served.”
A president appoints US attorneys to four-year terms, the Senate confirms them, and they serve in the US Department of Justice under the direction of the attorney general.
Sessions announced the policy that separates all families and detains immigrant children at the US-Mexico border in May as a deterrence measure, saying, “If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally.”
The policy contributed to a spike in the number of migrant children in US custody from March to April, when over 10,000 were in detention centers. Overall, at least 2,700 families have reportedly been separated at the border since October 2017.
President Donald Trump has repeated a false claim the policy is a result of standing immigration law, an excuse the letter sharply rejects and urges Trump to fix. Previous reports confirm there is no part of US immigration law specifically orders that families must be split up at the border.
“Its implementation and its execution are taking place solely at your direction, and the unfolding tragedy falls squarely on your shoulders,” the letter reads. “It is time for you to announce that this policy was ill-conceived.”
Doctors warn that forced family separation could cause permanent psychological damage, a trauma the letter said alone is “sufficient reason to halt your policy.”
Beyond that, referencing their collective background expertise, the letter points out that no prior administration of either party has implemented such a blanket policy that ignores the necessary balance of “effective enforcement and deterrence with humanity and compassion.”
One of the attorneys who signed the letter is Preet Bharara, who was fired last year after he refused to follow Sessions’ orders for all 46 remaining judges from former President Barack Obama’s administration to resign.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in Monday’s White House press briefing, despite publicly available pictures and videos, reports of detained children in distress were false.
“Claiming these children and families are treated inhumanely is not true and completely disrespects the hardworking men and women at the Office of Refugee Resettlement,” Nielsen said.