WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Judiciary Committee is demanding answers from federal immigration officials about the Trump administration’s separation of migrant children from their families and its struggle to reunite them, a fraught effort that’s drawn election-year criticism from both parties.
But a hearing scheduled for Tuesday on the topic may have a wider focus after the committee’s bipartisan leaders asked federal investigators to probe reports of sexual and other abuse of immigrants at government detention facilities.
Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and top panel Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California asked late Monday for an examination of alleged sexual, physical and emotional mistreatment of immigrants held at agency facilities, saying the problems may have been occurring since 2014 or earlier.
With President Donald Trump already under fire for taking thousands of migrant children from their detained parents — and botching the reunification of many — the request for the investigation elevated yet another issue to the administration’s list of immigration headaches.
“These allegations of abuse are extremely disturbing and must be addressed,” Grassley and Feinstein wrote in a letter to the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services. “This is not a partisan issue as reporting suggests many have been occurring for years.
Immigrant families and children kept in federal custody deserve to be treated with basic human dignity and respect and should never be subjected to these forms of abuse.”
Set to testify Tuesday to the Judiciary panel were officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Border Patrol and other agencies.
Trump began a policy of “zero tolerance” this spring, prosecuting all migrants caught entering the U.S. without authorization. To help discourage border crossing, his administration also began separating children from their detained parents, rather than following the policy used by previous administrations, which generally released the entire family pending court action.
Under withering public rejection and criticism from congressional Democrats and Republicans alike, Trump stopped taking children from their parents. But of the more than 2,500 children held, hundreds were not reunited by last week. That includes more than 400 whose parents were deported.
By Alan Fram for THE MERCURY NEWS
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