Cantwell, Washington State Democrats Join 139 Members of House and Senate to Speak Out Against Charging Migrant Parents Up to $8/Min. to Speak With Their Kids

In a new letter to Trump Administration, members urge ICE officials to end “shameful” practice of charging migrant parents in detention for phone calls to their children separated under President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” family separation policy; Members: “We write to urge you to implement immediate, nationwide changes that will permit individuals who have been separated from their children to make phone calls regularly and at no expense to them”

Washington, D.C. – Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Washington state’s Democratic members of Congress joined 139 of their colleagues in the House and Senate to demand immigration detention facilities immediately end their practice of charging migrant parents as much as $8 per minute to speak with their children by telephone. More than 2,400 migrant parents have been separated from their children under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy. 

In a letter to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), the members wrote:

“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. Reports and first-hand 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. Once their children are finally located, moreover, reports indicate that their parents are forced to pay as much as $8 per minute to speak with them by telephone, and that their access to this service can be limited to as little as one call per 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. Moreover, we firmly believe that this policy contradicts the relevant provisions of ICE's detention standards.”

The members continued: “The parents affected by the President's zero tolerance policy have been attempting to reach their immediate family members—their children—and they are clearly in a state of family emergency due to their forcible, prolonged separation and lack of communication. Therefore, charging these individuals to make these calls is clearly against agency standards […] 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. This practice is unacceptable, and it must end immediately.”

In addition to Senator Cantwell, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representatives Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Adam Smith (D-WA) also signed the letter. The letter was also backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Council of Jewish Women, Human Rights First, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Anti-Defamation League, Friends Committee on National Legislation, MomsRising, Franciscan Action Network, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and Center for Law and Social Policy.

The full text of the letter can be found HERE.