Senate Democrats are proposing a bill to counter President Trump's hardline immigration policies, introducing a measure that would make family separations at the border and improve protections for migrant families and children. The proposal comes as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is set to begin mass immigration raids this weekend.
The bill, proposed by Sen. Jeff Merkley and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, was first reported by the Washington Post. In a statement to the Post, Schumer said the legislation is a "necessary step to restore America's moral credibility, and an example of how we can deal with our immigration issues with dignity and common sense."
The government can detain migrant families for 20 days, after which it must release children, but can continue to hold adults. This policy of family separation was halted by the Trump administration after a severe backlash. The new bill would make all separations illegal, ensuring that the family separation policy can't be re-implemented.
The bill would also install more immigration judges and provide legal and social services for migrants. Another provision would strengthen humanitarian standards for the treatment of migrants, such as requiring immediate medical assessments of children and meeting a benchmark for nutrition and hygiene in detention centers.
Recent news of terrible conditions at detention centers have horrified Democrats. President Trump fired back against reporting by The New York Times and El Paso Times that outlined "filthy, overcrowded conditions" at a Border Patrol facility for children in Clint, Texas, including "outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox" "among the hundreds of children who were being held in cramped cells."
The allegations come only days after an Inspector General report detailed "dangerous" overcrowding at some Texas Customs and Border Protection facilities.
Meanwhile, ais expected to begin on Sunday, CBS News has confirmed. The raids are to take place in at least 10 major cities, and will be conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE is reportedly targeting about 2,000 migrants who are here illegally and were ordered deported. The agency has said that while its focus is on arresting people with criminal histories, any immigrant found in violation of U.S. laws would be subject to arrest.
Manuel Bojorquez contributed to this report