A bipartisan group of senators is demanding twice-monthly updates on family reunification from the Trump administration, according to a copy of a letter shared Wednesday with CNN.
The letter was led by Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and signed by 14 total lawmakers from both parties.
The senators wrote to the secretaries of Homeland Security, Justice and Health and Human Services that they have not been given enough information about family separations at the border or the reunification process to date.
“Unfortunately, the flow of information to the public and to congressional offices with important oversight responsibilities has been both incomplete and below acceptable standards,” they wrote in the letter. “Congress and the American people need regularly updated information to remain informed and to ensure Members of Congress are able to fully conduct their important congressional responsibilities.”
The letter continued: “Therefore, we respectfully ask that you provide to interested congressional offices and the relevant oversight Committees in the House and Senate the following information not less than twice a month until 1) all families separated through the zero-tolerance policy have been reunited or 2) a determination has been made that they cannot be reunited, with an explanation for the reasons that is the case.”
Two weeks ago, Lankford sent a letter, with Coons and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, requesting that the position of the US government should be to keep families together at the border, and urged the Trump administration to work with faith-based organizations to reunify families.
Since the administration implemented a zero-tolerance policy for prosecutions of adults crossing the border illegally – which resulted in thousands of families separated before it was reversed – many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle condemned the practice.
Questions for the departments to answer included details on the time between separation and reunification for families, the number of children who cannot be reunited because they’d be at risk, and the number of parents or legal guardians referred to Justice Department for prosecution and the types of crimes for which they have been referred.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, officials defended the practice, though a Department of Health and Human Services official acknowledged the administration had been warned about harming children during the policy’s development.
Republican Sens. Thom Tillis, Dean Heller, Dan Sullivan, Orrin Hatch and Jim Inhofe and Democratic Sens. Cory Booker, Margaret Hassan, Amy Klobuchar, Thomas Carper and Angus King all also co-signed the letter sent Wednesday.