Local activists spur Keep Families Together Act, aiming to help migrants seeking asylum

Posted at 6:47 PM, Jun 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-14 21:47:53-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Senator Dianne Feinstein urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass her Keep Families Together ActThursday morning, aimed at protecting asylum seekers.

Local activists part of San Diego Indivisible were moved by what they saw while helping the most recent migrant caravan. Marely Ramirez said, "we couldn't stay still, we couldn't sleep, it was time to move forward."

The new bill is co-sponsored by 32 Democratic senators. Feinstein's office says there are early signs of bipartisan support.

"This is really about our values as a country, it's who we are as a country," Feinstein said.

Hundreds of families have been separated due to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' "zero tolerance" immigration policy, sometimes sending children thousands of miles away to Homeland Security shelters.

The act would create a third party to vet they system, looking at everything from how asylum seeker's cases were ruled, to why families were separated.

"The bill insures the children may only be separated from their parents in the event they're being trafficked or abused by their parent," Feinstein said.

The act would also require an annual report listing each family's information, like names of parents, children, gender, ages, and length of separation.

"No law requires this action and the Trump administration should reverse this policy today," Feinstein said.

"The administration is doing a good job at instilling fear," Ramirez said. She says if migrants knew they would be torn from their children, they probably wouldn't take the risk to ask for asylum.

She's most concerned about how the separation affects the children, "children know when you tell them I will be away from you and I won't see you for a while."

That's the message behind Families Belong Together's logo. Ramirez asked her 7 year old daughter to draw how the separation would feel. She came back with a small hand grasping a larger one, saying she wouldn't let go of her mom.

Ramirez said children, while they are young and unable to speak as eloquently, understand the impact of being separated for an unknown amount of time.

Thursday Jeff Sessions spoke on the uptick in separations, saying he's upholding the law, "We are working carefully and smartly I think to stop the abuses in the system. It is not a bad thing, but a good thing."

The bill was introduced June 7th and is scheduled to be voted on next week.