Immigration officials defend handling of family separations


WASHINGTON (AP) — Top federal immigration officials went before Congress today to defend their handling of President Donald Trump's now-abandoned policy of separating migrant children from their families, saying they keep records of children in their custody.

They also said they can document decisions by hundreds of detained parents to willingly leave the U.S. without their children, an assertion that has drawn skepticism from lawmakers.

"We do not leave our humanity behind when we report for duty," Carla L. Provost, acting chief of the U.S. border patrol told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But the officials ran into bipartisan criticism from lawmakers appalled at the hundreds of migrant children who remain apart from their parents, more than a month after Trump dropped his family separation policy under fire from Democrats and Republicans alike.

The Judiciary panel's top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, called the separations "immoral and haphazard." No. 2 Senate Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois said he wanted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to resign, saying the policy shows "the extremes this administration will go to to punish families fleeing" horrible conditions, adding, "Someone in this administration has to accept responsibility."

Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Trump's crackdown on people illegally crossing the border from Mexico was well-intentioned but has had unintended consequences.

He said the administration has "mishandled" family separations. He also cited reports that immigrants have experienced sexual and other abuse at some government detention facilities and said those held must be treated humanely.

Late Monday, Grassley and Feinstein sent a letter asking the inspectors general of the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments to investigate news organization's reports of abuse of immigrants at detention centers.

"No one, no matter what their immigration status, should have to suffer such abuse," Grassley said at today's hearing.

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