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June 18, 2018

Sen. Toomey: 'Family detention centers' could ease child-separation concerns

'I don’t think anybody wants to see the consequences we’ve seen recently,' he said of images from U.S.-Mexico border

Politics Immigration
Immigration protest Courtesy/Dave Brindley

Protestors gathered outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s local offices to question a White House policy that separates families at the border.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is on the record opposing Philadelphia’s sanctuary city status, but when it comes to separating children from their parents at the border, he said Monday that Congress needs to take action.

In light of protests planned for Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance at a Rittenhouse Square fundraiser on Tuesday, PhillyVoice reached out to the Republican senator’s office seeking his thoughts on the issue.

His press secretary, Steve Kelly, shared audio from the senator's monthly appearance on an AM talk-radio show in Erie.

Toomey noted that “it’s not the case that everyone who arrives at the border has parents and children separated.” He said asylum seekers “who arrive lawfully” are not separated. He also drew a parallel to arrests not related to immigration.

“If a woman in Pennsylvania breaks the law and commits a crime and she’s arrested and prosecuted, her children do not go into her prison cell with her,” he told host Barry Steinhagen on 1400AM WJET on Monday morning. 

“She is separated from her children. That is a painful exercise. How do you avoid it?" he continued. “It is obviously very, very difficult to impose this on the children.”

Toomey said, however, that he thinks the policy that’s the source of major controversy across America right now can be modified.

“If we pass legislation that permits it, we could have family detention centers,” he said. “We could have a detention center where we hold a person who broke the law, came here illegally and brought their children, and they are held in a humane environment with their children until they have been processed.

“I don’t think anybody wants to see the consequences we’ve seen recently.”

There has been some activity in Congress related to those consequences, including the introduction of the “Keep Families Together Act” from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California.

On the other side of the aisle, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is said to be working to amend the “Humane Act” that, initially introduced in 2014, would speed up hearings for undocumented children. Also expected to offer up options are James Lankford and Ben Sasse, from Oklahoma and Nebraska respectively.

Toomey hasn't signed onto Feinstein's bill, but will look at what this trio produces.

“Sen. Toomey looks forward to reviewing them when they are introduced,” Kelly said.