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Bennet, Gardner to Trump: Reunite families torn apart at the border

Author: Marianne Goodland - July 19, 2018 - Updated: August 7, 2018

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In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who’ve been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, Sunday, June 17, 2018. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP)

Colorado’s two U.S. senators — Republican Cory Garden and Democrat Michael Bennet — are among more than two dozen lawmakers who have signed a letter to President Donald Trump calling for the return of children away from their parents who cross the U.S. border illegally or seek legal asylum.

The letter, dated Thursday, was signed by 10 Republicans, including Gardner; 16 Democrats, including Bennet; and Sen. Angus King of Maine, who is independent.

The letter reads:

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge your administration to prioritize the reunification of families and to ensure that, from this point forward, the default position of the United States of America is to keep families together.

While we represent constituents from all faiths and political backgrounds, we have all heard one consistent message — the United States government should not separate children from their families except in extreme circumstances. As we work to find a permanent solution, we urge the administration to use all available resources currently at its disposal to reunite families as soon as possible.

Throughout our history, faith-based organizations have partnered with the federal government to help achieve its humanitarian goals. Faith-based organizations, including groups like Sojourners, Catholic Charities USA, World Vision, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Christian Community Development Association, Church World Service, and World Relief are willing and able to support reunification efforts and provide critical services for children and families in need. We encourage you to partner with the faith community to assist with family reunification and keeping families together in the future. 

We remain committed to working together to fix our broken immigration system. Enforcement of our immigration laws should be a high priority, but we must also adhere to our core moral values as Americans.

The Trump administration has been under fire since mid-June, when news reports revealed that the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency had taken 2,342 children away from their parents at the U.S-Mexico border. The separation policy had been approved by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April.

A federal court in California ordered the administration to reunite those families by July 10, a task the administration failed to accomplish by the deadline. Both Trump and Sessions have reportedly said that if parents don’t want to lose their children, they shouldn’t bring them across the border illegally.

Signatories to the letter also included Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and James Imhofe of Oklahoma. Democrats who signed included Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Bill Nelson of Florida, all up for re-election this fall in states Trump won in 2016.

In a statement, Bennet said that the “images of children separated from their families shocked Americans of all faiths and backgrounds and undermined our moral leadership in the world. Our letter sends a clear, bipartisan message that the family separation policy violates our core American values. The faith community stands ready to correct this wrong and help the administration reunify families immediately.”

In official action Thursday, the U.S. Senate also voted 98-0 on a resolution telling the Trump administration not to turn over Americans to the Russian government for interrogation. The resolution is non-binding.

It comes in the wake of statements Trump made after his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Trump said he thought it was an “incredible offer” by Putin to allow Russians to interrogate several Americans, believed to include former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, a Putin critic. The Russian government is also pursuing Bill Browder, a British subject born in Chicago who helped expose “a massive conspiracy involving government officials and members of the Russian mafia to steal state tax revenues.”

The resolution, sponsored by Senate Democrats, reads:

It is the sense of Congress that the United States should refuse to make available any current or former diplomat, civil servant, political appointee, law enforcement official, or member of the Armed Forces of the United States for questioning by the government of Vladimir Putin.

The White House on Thursday said that despite his comments Monday in Helsinki, Trump is opposed to allowing Russia to interview American officials.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.