U.S. Rep. Yoder urges Sessions to halt separation of families

photo by: AP Photo/John Hanna

In this AP file photo from Aug. 22, 2017, U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., answers questions about health care and other issues during a town hall meeting at the city hall in Olathe. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

WICHITA — U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to halt the separation of families during a crackdown on illegal entries, going further than any other member of Kansas’ all Republican congressional delegation in expressing concerns.

Yoder, who is chairman of a House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, demanded the change Monday. He said in a statement that as the son of a social worker, he knows the “trauma that comes with children being separated from their parents,” The Wichita Eagle reported.

“It takes a lasting, and sometimes even irreversible toll on the child’s well being,” said Yoder, who sent the letter Monday. “That’s why I’m demanding that Attorney General Sessions halt the practice of family separation at the border immediately as Congress works toward legislative solutions.”

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May after Sessions announced the new “zero-tolerance” policy that refers all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution. Sessions said Monday in New Orleans at the National Sheriff’s Association conference that enforcing immigration laws that result in the separation of children from parents is necessary. He said without enforcing the laws, “we encourage hundreds of thousands of people a year to likewise ignore our laws and illegally enter our country.”

In some cases, Kansas lawmakers expressed discomfort but stopped short of calling on the Trump administration to stop the separations. Instead, they called on Congress to act.

Rep. Ron Estes said that Democrats need to stop opposing “common-sense border security provisions,” including additional agents to work with immigrants at the border, judges to work cases and a wall in some areas.

Sen. Pat Roberts and Rep. Lynn Jenkins condemned the practice of separating families. Roberts said that although he firmly supports enforcing immigration law, “I am against using parental separation as a deterrent to illegal immigration.”

Jenkins’ office said the separations highlight the need to pass immigration reform in order to put an end to “this awful policy.” Jenkins is not running for re-election.

“Congresswoman Jenkins does not support forcibly separating children and their parents and believes the practice, which is not new to this Administration but has increased in volume under it, has gone on long enough,” her office said in a statement.

Sen. Jerry Moran’s office did not immediately comment Monday. Rep. Roger Marshall echoed Sessions’ comments. Marshall said he has empathy for the children who have been separated, and called it “terrible.”

“But at the end of the day we’re a country of laws,” Marshall said.

He said immigration legislation set for votes in the House would end the practice.

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