AP NEWS

House committee ready to issue first subpoena against Trump over family separations at border

February 26, 2019

The Oversight Committee voted Tuesday to subpoena Trump administration documents behind last year’s separation of illegal immigrant families, marking what could be the first such subpoena to be served by the new Democratic majority.

The 25-11 vote was bipartisan, with several Republicans joining Democrats to demand detailed information about thousands of children who were taken from parents who were sent to jail last year.

Most have been reunited or, in some cases, their parents have left the children in the country while the adults returned home. But the committee’s Democrats said they want to see the data to figure out who’s been reunited, who’s still left separate, and how those remaining trouble cases can be solved.

Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings called the separations “government-sponsored child abuse,” and said the GOP-led House should have done more to pressure the administration over the issue last year.

Republicans, though, complained Mr. Cummings was rashly rushing to be the first Democrat to issue a subpoena to the Trump administration.

They said the agencies involved have promised cooperation, including saying committee investigators could immediately look at the information in secret, balancing Congress’s need for information with privacy rights of the families involved.

Democrats countered that they need to have the data in their possession so they can try to track families through the system and see what separations are still taking place.

The separations were an effect of last year’s “zero tolerance” border policy, which saw the government attempt to pursue criminal charges against every illegal border crosser. Previously only adults traveling solo were generally charged, while parents coming with children were not charged.

The consequence of charging parents, though, was that they went into the federal criminal justice system, which has no space for children so the children were separated and turned over to the federal Health Department.

Many of the parents were then deported while their children were still in the U.S.

Federal investigators say once the separations occurred, the Trump administration didn’t even have the ability to easily track which children went with which parents.

A federal judge last June ordered an end to separations and has been overseeing reunifications in the months since.