Democrats Blast ICE For Charging Migrant Parents To Call Their Kids

Over 100 Democratic lawmakers slammed ICE officials in a letter for charging migrant parents high fees for calls to their separated children.

View from behind of a group of children walking.

Democratic legislators are calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to change a policy that allows agents at privately-run facilities to charge immigrant parents for calls to their separated children.

The group of lawmakers calls the fees “exorbitant,” adding that their imposition is a “shameless” and “morally reprehensible” policy.

About150 Democrats wrote a letter to the agency urging an immediate change.

“We write to urge you to implement immediate, nationwide changes that will permit individuals who have been separated from their children to make phone calls regularly and at no expense to them," the letter stated.

Angélica Salceda, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California, told reporters that immigrants can be “essentially held incommunicado.”

With call rates reaching as high as $9.50 for 10 minutes, she added, “Somebody who doesn't have money in their account just can’t make a phone call at all.”

According to ICE’s telephone access standards, immigrants are allowed to call lawyers and other help lines for free. They add that immigrants should have “equitable access to reasonably priced telephone services” and that detention facilities should allow for direct or free calls to “immediate family or others for detainees in personal and family emergencies."

Rep. Jared Polis told reporters that calling a separated child should be treated as an emergency.

“These mothers, fathers, babies, and young children came here with nothing to their names, seeking refuge. We shouldn’t allow them to be exploited by private corporations in order to simply locate and speak with their children by phone," Polis said. “We shouldn’t be kicking migrant parents while they’re down, we should be helping them to reunite with their kids now."

ICE has yet to comment on this letter, The Hill reported.

President Donald Trump continues to be criticized for his family separation policy and for failing to reunite all children. More than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents, but only 364 children have been reunited so far despite the fact that a federal judge ruled that all should be reunited by July 26, and that all children under the age of 5 should have been reunited by July 10.

Even as Democrats pressure officials to be more humane toward immigrant families, it’s clear that the Trump administration is not losing any sleep over its inability to reunite these families.

Perhaps it will take a lot more pressure from the public to get ICE to act on the Democrats' request.

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Brendan McDermid 

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