Wolf de­mands an­swers on four chil­dren sep­a­rated from par­ents

Centre Daily Times - - Front Page - BY MARK SCOLFORO

Penn­syl­va­nia’s gover­nor says at least four chil­dren from his state were re­cently sep­a­rated from their par­ents by U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment and wrote Mon­day to de­mand the agency halt the prac­tice un­til it has a plan to en­sure the wel­fare of chil­dren.

Gov. Tom Wolf asked Home­land Se­cu­rity Act­ing Sec­re­tary Kevin McAleenan to ac­count for all chil­dren sep­a­rated from their par­ents this year in Penn­syl­va­nia and to tell him how long they were kept apart and about any steps the fed­eral gov­ern­ment took to en­sure their well-be­ing.

Wolf said in the letter that the four chil­dren are U.S. cit­i­zens and come from at least three migrant fam­i­lies. He said that “in­for­ma­tion re­layed” to state of­fi­cials in­di­cated fed­eral agents did not make sure that the chil­dren had ad­e­quate tem­po­rary guardian­ship.

An Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment spokesman in Philadel­phia said in an email that any re­sponse to Wolf’s letter “would come through the ap­pro­pri­ate chan­nels.”

Wolf spokesman J.J. Ab­bott said the sep­a­ra­tions oc­curred in Philadel­phia in late July, and at least two of the kids have since been re­united with their par­ents.

He said the ad­min­is­tra­tion has been work­ing to get more de­tails about what hap­pened in Philadel­phia, in­clud­ing ex­actly

when and where the sep­a­ra­tions oc­curred.

“We know that at least two, their par­ents were even­tu­ally re­leased, and the fam­i­lies were re­united,” Ab­bott said. “But I don’t be­lieve on the other two we had any fi­nal­ity of the re­sult.”

The emailed state­ment from Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment said the agency “ex­er­cises dis­cre­tion” when ar­rest­ing some­one with chil­dren to en­sure some­one is avail­able to care for the chil­dren, “con­sis­tent with lo­cal, state and fed­eral law en­force­ment con­ven­tions and pro­to­cols.”

In June 2018 – days af­ter President Don­ald Trump re­treated amid an in­ter­na­tional uproar – a fed­eral judge or­dered that the prac­tice of split­ting up fam­i­lies at the border be halted ex­cept in lim­ited cir­cum­stances, such as threats to child safety. The judge left in­di­vid­ual de­ci­sions to the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s dis­cre­tion.

Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment’s prac­tices re­gard­ing chil­dren drew scru­tiny again last week, af­ter 680 mi­grants were ar­rested at seven Mis­sis­sippi chicken pro­cess­ing plants.

Trump said Fri­day the Mis­sis­sippi raids served as “a very good de­ter­rent” and de­fended the lack of suf­fi­cient ad­vance prepa­ra­tion for deal­ing with the chil­dren whose par­ents were de­tained.

“The rea­son is be­cause you have to go in, you can’t let any­body know, other­wise when you get there, no­body will be there,” Trump said.

Wolf, a Demo­crat, told McAleenan that state gov­ern­ment is will­ing to help to place asy­lum seek­ers in com­mu­ni­ties and make sure any sep­a­rated chil­dren are ad­e­quately cared for.

Wolf said chil­dren can’t be left to fend for them­selves “while your de­part­ment pri­or­i­tizes overly ag­gres­sive en­force­ment over their health and safety.”

“This is ab­so­lutely ir­re­spon­si­ble. Even worse, we are not aware that proper child wel­fare pro­to­cols – or even com­mon sense – were used to en­sure safe and le­gal tem­po­rary guardian­ship for th­ese mi­nor chil­dren,” Wolf wrote.

Af­ter the Mis­sis­sippi raids, three Demo­cratic con­gress­men sought more in­for­ma­tion about how many par­ents were sep­a­rated from their chil­dren and whether any re­main sep­a­rated.

Wolf told McAleenan that put­ting chil­dren through separation was likely un­jus­ti­fied un­less both par­ents were a threat to the chil­dren or oth­ers.

“Was this the case? If not, this is as un­nec­es­sary as it is cal­lous,” Wolf wrote.

MATT ROURKE AP

In a letter to U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, Penn­syl­va­nia Gov. Tom Wolf, shown on June 28, said chil­dren can’t be left to fend for them­selves “while your de­part­ment pri­or­i­tizes overly ag­gres­sive en­force­ment over their health and safety.”

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