Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today called on United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to end the cruel and illegal attacks on children and families lawfully seeking asylum in the United States as they seek protection from domestic, sexual and gang violence.
In recent weeks, the federal government has separated thousands of asylum-seeking children from their parents, and reclassified the protective status of international domestic violence survivors.
Attorney General Kilmartin was joined by 20 attorneys general demanding that United State Attorney General Jeff Sessions immediately stop putting children in danger by separating them from their families.
"There is no question that our immigration system is broken, and is in much need of reform, but recent policies set forth by this administration are not the solution. Instead, the administration is playing politics at the expense of children and their families who seek legal asylum in this country," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "We are a nation of compassion as much as we are a nation of laws, and we should follow those laws with a moral compass that allows for compassion."
"The Justice Department is ignoring its legal and moral obligations for the sake of a political agenda at the expense of children and the efforts of state law enforcement officials combating crimes like human trafficking, drug trafficking and gang violence which operate across international borders," said Attorney General Hector Balderas. "The latest move to unnecessarily separate families is cruel and another example of this administration putting politics ahead of people. Because of these concerns and the overwhelming views of Americans that we must protect the best interests and safety of all children and domestic violence victims, we demand that the Department of Justice immediately cease these draconian practices."
"Put simply, the deliberate separation of children and their parents who seek lawful asylum in America is wrong. This practice is contrary to American values and must be stopped. We demand that you immediately reverse these harmful policies in the best interests of the children and families affected," the attorneys general write in the letter to Sessions.
Attorney General Kilmartin and the coalition of attorneys general argues that in addition to being cruel and dangerous, these policies are, at their core violations of international, federal and state law, as well as of judicial precedent. Almost universally, those laws and precedents state that children's best interests are in remaining with their parents, absent a rigorous judicial inquiry. The Department of Justice is ignoring those best interests, putting politics ahead of children.
"We have prosecuted cases of children brought to this country illegally for the purposes of human trafficking as well as cases of violence of undocumented immigrants perpetrated by gangs, and the policies by the administration will undoubtedly lead to victims being afraid of reporting crimes against them. This will only need to a more lawless society in our communities," added Kilmartin.
The letter also reads, "These practices directly interfere with the efforts of our offices and other law enforcement officials---locally, nationally, and internationally---to prevent and prosecute crime. In most states, Attorneys General are responsible for enforcing laws that include human trafficking, drug trafficking, and gang violence offenses. As you are keenly aware, these issues are rarely local in context, rather they require the efforts and collaboration of law enforcement officials across both state and international borders to prevent the widespread and syndicated perpetration of these crimes."
Attorney General Kilmartin is joined by the attorneys general of New Mexico, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington in demanding an immediate change in policy.