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Tom Shillue

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Rep. Rick Larsen on asylum seekers: Separation policy is ‘not working’

The Federal Detention Center in SeaTac. (Sounder Bruce, Flickr)

A rally was held Saturday in response to the recent detention of asylum seekers at a federal detention center in SeaTac. The detention involved approximately 177 women and 32 men, many of which were separated from their children at the Mexico border.

Democratic Congressmember Rick Larsen joined the Jason Rantz Show to discuss the Trump administration’s immigration policy that is separating children from parents.

“Under this administration, they’ve been much more aggressive about it,” Larsen said. “It is something that is allowed. But it’s not something that’s working, to the extent that this administration is using this separation policy as an dis-incentive. Because we’ve seen over the last couple months border arrests increase, which the president has said he’s very angry about.

“If the policy is working, there would be fewer and fewer arrests because fewer people are coming.”

RELATED: State leaders attend rally for asylum-seeking mothers detained

Hosted by Northwest Detention Center Resistance, the event drew hundreds of protesters and featured several Washington state leaders, including Gov. Jay Inslee.

In a joint statement to the Federal Detention Center, both Gov. Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson noted that: “The Trump Administration’s new family separation policy is inflicting intentional, gratuitous, and permanent trauma on young children who have done nothing wrong and on parents who often have valid claims for refugee or asylum status.”

Several asylum seekers detained in SeaTac have met with lawyers from Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and AG Ferguson is exploring whether a lawsuit could potentially stop the separations.

Unclear how many asylum seekers have been separated

There’s no exact figure on how many families have been separated to date. The New York Times reported that from October 2017 to April of this year, 700 families were split. Reuters suggested that 1,800 occurred between October 2016 and February 2018. And according to statistics released by the Customs and Border Protection, 658 children were split from 638 adults in the “prosecution process” between May 7 to May 21.

“We saw, over the last couple of years, the arrivals of young kids who are escaping El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras with murder rates through the roof. Those folks trying to escape are being told you’ll be separated from your child,” Larsen said. “It is being done as a dis-incentive, but it doesn’t seem to be working. There’s no indication that it will.”

“The rally was about highlighting both from a practical point of view that this policy isn’t working, as well as from a humanitarian point of view what is the U.S. about,” he said. “If this is what we’re about, there are clearly people in this country, good citizens in this country, who oppose what the president is doing.”

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