Sunday, September 20, 2020
Sept. 20, 2020

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Murray, Cantwell urge ICE to end phone call practice

Reports show parents separated from their children at border being charged $8 a minute to talk with them

By , Columbian politics reporter

Democratic U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington were joined by 141 colleagues from the Senate and House in urging U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to change a newly unveiled practice they branded “callous, shameless, and completely unjustified.”

Reports showed parents separated from their children at the border are being charged up to $8 a minute to speak with those children on the phone.

Since the Trump administration began separating parents crossing the border from their children earlier this year, more than 2,400 families have been impacted.

“Many of the thousands of mothers and fathers affected by this policy are currently being detained in ICE facilities across the country, hundreds or thousands of miles away from their children,” the letter sent to ICE reads. “Reports and firsthand accounts have indicated that many of these detained parents have been forced to endure weeks without any information as to the location of their children.”

If their children are located, parents are reportedly then being charged for telephone calls, some of which are limited to once a week.

“Charging these detained parents to speak with their children is callous, shameless, and completely unjustified given the minimal cost borne by detention facilities in providing this service,” the letter continues.

“The current practice of charging detainees to make these calls is creating profit for private corporations while also serving as a barrier to communication within an exceptionally vulnerable population,” the letter said. “This practice is unacceptable, and it must end immediately.”

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, did not sign the letter. Herrera Beutler said if families are actually being charged $8 a minute to speak, the practice should cease.

“But this publicity push by Democrats feels like part of a larger effort to delegitimize the law enforcement agency tasked with upholding immigration laws and combatting drug and human trafficking,” Herrera Beutler said in an email. “The movement to abolish ICE is dangerous territory for any member of the U.S. House or Senate.”