Senate Condemns the Federal Government’s Policy of Separating Immigrant Children from their Parents

TRENTON – A resolution sponsored by Senator Joseph Cryan and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz condemning the federal government’s policy of separating children from their parents at the southwestern border passed the Senate yesterday.

“These past few days, all of America has been shocked by the images seen on TV and in our minds,” said Senator Cryan (D-Union).  “We’re filled with outrage and concern.  Today we have a chance to speak out.  Today we have a chance to speak out with one voice.  Today we get a chance to stand up and really put ‘Families First’.”

“As a mother, I cannot imagine a moment without knowing where my daughter is,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex).  “The cruel practice of separating children from their mothers & fathers is inhumane. This morally bankrupt policy is not what America stands for. The United States has always been a glowing beacon of hope for the world’s most vulnerable”.

The resolution, SR-88, condemns this unjust policy.

A number of Senators gave impassioned speeches from the Senate floor before the resolution vote.  Here are some highlights:

“The America I grew up in was welcoming to all in need,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland).  “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this would happen here.  No child should ever be separated from their parent.”

“As a mother, a grandmother, I cannot begin to fathom what that feeling would be if my child was taken from me,” said Senator Nellie Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic).  “These parents and children are living everyday unsure if they will ever see each other again.  I’d never want anyone to experience what is happening to them right now.”

“Sometimes people question why folks from Central America come to the U.S., and why they would try to enter illegally,” said Senator Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex).  “Well, I have been to these countries, like Guatemala and Honduras.  I’ve witnessed what gangs do to these communities, and the hardships they face.  They come to the U.S. because they want to live.  They want the opportunity for a life.  That is why they come.”

“I am the product of an early childhood where four siblings were separated,” said Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-Essex).  “Two of us stayed in Richmond, Virginia with our mother and two of us went north with our father.  My mother is 93-years old now, and to this day she has not gotten over the pain and the guilt of being separated from my brother and me.”

“I am a legacy of grandmothers and great-grandmothers who had their babies torn from them,” said Senator Nia H. Gill (D-Essex/Passaic).  ‘I am the legacy of mothers who have cried out at night as their children were torn from them to be sold.  The cries of the children at the border today are an ancestral cry for all mothers who have had their children forcibly taken.”

“What is happening to the families and to the children at our border is reprehensible and horrific,” said Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester)  “Seventy-three years ago, our nation banded together to defeat fascism.  We are better than this.  This is the United States of America.”

The resolution was passed by the Senate with a unanimous voice vote.

The text of SR-88:

A SENATE RESOLUTION condemning the federal government’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the Southwestern border of the United States.

WHEREAS, The federal government, since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, has begun prosecuting an increasing number of immigration violations under criminal law instead of civil law; and

WHEREAS, On April 6, 2018, the Department of Justice enacted a “zero tolerance” policy under which all unauthorized crossings at the Southwestern border of the United States will be treated as criminal offenses; and

WHEREAS, These policies separate families crossing the border without authorization, since the parents are placed in criminal detention centers while the children are taken into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services; and

WHEREAS, It has been reported that over 2,400 immigrant families have been separated at the Southwestern border between October 2016 and May 2018; and

WHEREAS, These separations may last months, or even years, since the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services have few procedures in place to ensure the reunification of separated families; and

WHEREAS, It has been reported that the motivation for these policies is not to maintain the safety of the children, but merely to deter others from committing immigration violations; and

WHEREAS, These policies are unjust, since they indiscriminately break the sacred bond between child and parent, which should only be broken by the government in cases of dire need; and

WHEREAS, These polices are against the values of the United States, which traditionally prides itself on being a beacon of hope for beleaguered people all over the world; and

WHEREAS, These policies run counter to the interests of New Jersey, which depends upon immigrants for its cultural and economic growth; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the State of New Jersey:

1. This House condemns the federal government’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the Southwestern border of the United States.

2. Copies of this resolution, as filed with the Secretary of State, shall be transmitted by the Secretary of the Senate to the President and Vice President of the United States; the Majority and Minority Leaders of the United States Senate; The Speaker and Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives; and every member of Congress elected from this State.

This resolution condemns the federal government’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the Southwestern border of the United States.

Since the inauguration of President Donald Trump in 2016, the federal government has begun prosecuting an increasing number of immigration violations under criminal law instead of civil law. In addition, on April 6, 2018, the Department of Justice announced a new “zero-tolerance” policy, under which all immigration violations along the Southwestern border are to be treated as criminal offenses.

The result of these policies is that families who cross the border without authorization are divided. The parents are taken to criminal detention centers and the children are taken into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services. It has been reported that over 2400 immigrant families have been separated at the Southwestern border between October 2016 and May 2018. Furthermore, it has been reported that the motivation for these polices is not the safety of the children, but merely to deter others from committing immigration violations.

These policies are unjust. The bond between child and parent is sacred and should be broken by the government only in cases of dire need. These policies, however, break this bond indiscriminately.

The policies are also contrary to the basic values of the United States. The United States traditionally prides itself on being a beacon of hope for beleaguered people all over the world, but these policies will tarnish that reputation.

In addition, the policies run counter to the values and interests of New Jersey. It has been reported that, between 2010 and 2016, New Jersey’s population growth was entirely dependent on immigrants. Thus, these policies, by discouraging the immigration of families to New Jersey, will cause the State economic harm and cultural loss.