Durbin: separating kids and parents at the border is cruel, shameful

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Homeland Security buses enter the Federal Correctional facility in Victorville, Calif. earlier this month. More than 1,600 people arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border, including parents who have been separated from their children, are being transferred to federal prisons, U.S. immigration authorities say. They said they’re running out of room at their own facilities amid President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration. | James Quigg/The Daily Press distributed by the Associated Press

A 6-year-old girl looked at U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin with suspicion Monday during a meeting in his Loop office.

“The girl looked to see if I, this big old white guy in a suit, was going to do something to take her away from her mom,” Durbin said.

The girl and her mother — both from the Democratic Republic of Congo — were separated in November by immigration agents while seeking asylum at the Mexican border.

The mother was detained in California while her daughter was sent to a facility in Chicago.

The pair were in danger and fled their country because the child of a government official was accidentally killed at their home and the government official was seeking revenge.

Durbin highlighted their case to shed light on immigration policy set in place by the administration of President Donald Trump that’s seen thousands of children separated from their parents in recent months as they sought to enter the United States. Durbin called the tactic “shameful” and “embarrassing.”

In March the mother and daughter — after public pressure and intervention by Durbin’s office — were re-united and are living in Chicago in housing provided by a charitable group.

“The immigration policy of the Trump administration has been heartless and cruel and this is the worst example,” Durbin said.

“Removing children from their parents during any hearing or during any consideration is now an official policy,” Durbin said.

The girl’s mother waived her asylum case and right to appeal after learning that the process could keep her from seeing her daughter for months, said Ann Walsh, an immigration attorney who’s seeking to re-open the asylum case.

“All she could think about was being reunited with her child,” Walsh said.

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