The Committee on Homeland Security Democrats hosted a congressional panel on Wednesday to answer questions regarding President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, a practice that has separated more than 2,000 children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The discussion titled “Immigration Policy Failures: from Family Separation to Detention Practices” covered topics including health, adoption and advocacy.
“I wish it was a panel we didn't have to convene,” Ryan Mace, Grassroots Advocacy & Refugee Specialist of Amnesty International USA, said.
Mace said the policy is a “flagrant violation” of human rights and called on Congress to end the detainment of asylum seekers.
“Families and children who are trying to get away from violence to somewhere they are safe and can seek asylum,” Mace said. “For most, asylum is not something they choose to do but something they must do.”
Advocacy Strategist of Refugee Protection at Human Rights First, Jennifer Quigley, also weighed in to say the U.S. government should not be prosecuting asylum seekers but should instead process their asylum claims.
The panelists also touched on the process of adopting the children in the centers. Sanjeev K. Sriram of Doctors for America says although it may seem like a good idea, it may actually negatively impact the child.
“[...] how traumatizing those good intentions are,” Sriram said. “You can have all the good intentions in the world and have a horrible impact.”
Sriram spoke on the mental health effect of removing children from their parents. He said that when asylum seekers first arrive at the border, mental health services should be readily available.
“Full mental health services [...] should be the thing we are working to litigate,” Sriram said. “Those are our basic duties and responsibilities that we owe to these vulnerable children.”
Closing remarks from the panelists called for constituents to donate to advocacy groups, register to vote, and raise their voice.
While the event was going on, President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to to keep immigrant families together.