Public Radio from UA Little Rock
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

U.S. Sen. Cotton Of Arkansas: Detained Immigrant Children And Parents Not Actually Related

Tom Cotton
Michael Hibblen

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., says some of the immigrant children who are being separated from the adults they are entering the country with at the border with Mexico are not actually related.

Speaking Tuesday on the nationally-syndicated radio program The Hugh Hewitt Show, Cotton was skeptical that many of the 2,000-plus children separated from their parents since April are relatives.

"When their parents bring them to the border, or just as likely kidnap them or buy them from human traffickers to pose as parents at the border, the parent is taken into custody and the child can’t be detained for more than 20 days and therefore is placed with a relative or a kind of foster care," said Cotton.

Sen. Cotton's office did not respond to a request for the source of his claim.

Cotton proposes changing the 1997 Flores settlement, which requires the federal government to release rather than detain all undocumented immigrant children after 20 days, whether they crossed with parents or alone. He said he wants the period of detainment to be extended, keeping families together and children in detention longer. This proposal could also keep the policy of separating children while their parents are prosecuted.

In the U.S. House, Republicans want to tie a fix to broader immigration issues such as border wall funding and limiting immigration, prioritizing more entries based on skills rather than a lottery system.

Mireya Reith, the director of the Arkansas United Community Coalition said she isn’t impressed by Republican legislative solutions. She thinks they will ultimately leave the zero tolerance policy in place, limit total immigration and open the flood gates to unchecked border security funds and developments.

"The crisis is of a political making of our leaders in Washington D.C. who made a unilateral decision back in April to move to a zero tolerance policy that is leading to about 70 children a day being separated from their parents. It’s estimated up to 30,000 children by the end of the summer will be separated from their parents. A result that’s directly of Trump’s zero tolerance policies," said Reith. "The solutions I've seen would exacerbated the problem."

Supporters of keeping families together at the border plan to rally at the state Capitol on Saturday, June 30. Reith says the well-being of children and families needs to be the centerpiece of any Congressional action.

"Border patrol should keep families together and enable these families who are refugees and seeking political asylum to have due process and justice and to put them in facilities that demonstrate and show respect and dignity to these families. Facilities that have the capability of handling full families of all ages who are dealing with the trauma of the experience of what led them to leave their country," Reith said.

Democrats have offered a different range of solutions than their Republican colleagues. They largely lay the blame squarely on President Trump’s administration for creating a new policy leading to the current situation, while Republicans say the President’s hands are tied by old laws.

Every Democratic U.S. Senator has backed a bill to prohibit removing a child from a parent at the U.S. border.

Sen. Tom Cotton took to Twitter to refer to Democratic lawmakers' proposals to keep children with their parents at the Mexico border as the, "Child Trafficking Encouragement Act."

Cotton accuses Democrats of crying false tears over the issue. A bill by U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., would prohibit separating children from parents unless there's evidence of child trafficking or abuse. Cotton says those are rights not even granted to U.S. citizens.

"All across America there are parents who are separated from their children because they have been arrested for a crime or because they’ve been convicted of a crime," said Cotton.

"If the Democrats aren’t crying for those American citizens, they’re willing to treat illegal immigrant criminals better than they treat American citizens who are charged with a crime. What they are proposing shows just how radical and extreme Democrats have become on immigration."

Reith notes the U.S. government’s new policy does not distinguish between people crossing the border in violation of U.S. law and those legally seeking asylum or refugee status. Cotton did not distinguish between asylum seekers and criminals.

Jacob Kauffman is a former news anchor and reporter for KUAR.
Related Content