Senators Lankford and Inhofe Introduce Bill to Keep Families Together and Strengthen Integrity of Immigration Laws

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) today joined a group of Senators to introduce the Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act, a bill that would keep families together while ensuring the integrity of our nation’s immigration laws. The legislation requires that children and their parents remain together during their immigration-related legal proceedings. 

A policy known as the Flores Settlement Agreement led to the Departments of Homeland Security or Justice being unable to keep children in custody with their parents for an extended period of time once the parents are charged with a crime for crossing the border illegally. This agreement is the result of the 1997 Flores v. Reno case, and subsequent interpretations by federal courts, about how to handle Unaccompanied Alien Children and family units who have crossed our border illegally.

The Senators are pleased that the President took action, but recognize that legislation is still needed to ensure that families can stay together.

“We are a nation that believes in the unity of families, the rule of law, and the protection of children; our immigration laws must reflect all of these values,” said Lankford “This common-sense bill keeps families together as much as possible at the border while also ensuring we are able to enforce the law. Now is also the time to fix our outdated immigration laws to secure the border, address DACA, crack down on human trafficking, and also streamline the legal immigration process.”

“I’m proud to support this key legislation that would overturn the court case that results in family separation, permanently addressing the root cause of the crisis,” said Inhofe. “As we continue to improve our border security and build the wall, this legislation focuses on keeping families together and ensuring they receive proper care.”

First and foremost, the Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act keeps children and their parents together. In addition, the legislation keeps children safe by requiring children to be removed from an individual who presents a clear and present danger to the health and safety of the child, including a parent with a violent history of committing aggravated felonies. The bill also maintains current standards for the humane and fair treatment of migrant children and families who have made the decision to illegally enter the country by setting mandatory standards of care for family migration residential centers. The bill does not alter existing laws and policies concerning asylum or the care for unaccompanied children who cross the border.

To prioritize the timely adjudication of family cases, the legislation also authorizes 225 immigration judges and requires the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to prioritize resolving the cases of children and families in family residential centers. Unlike other proposals – which incentivize illegal immigration by codifying “catch and release” policies into law – this legislation actually solves the problem by keeping families together while also ensuring the integrity of our immigration laws.

This bill was introduced by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Dean Heller (R-NV), while the original co-sponsors include Lankford, Inhofe, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Steve Daines (R-MT), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John Thune (R-SD), Bob Corker (R-TN), John Boozman (R-AR), David Perdue (R-GA) and Robert Portman (R-OH), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Mike Crapo (R-ID).