Durbin meets with some of 66 children separated from parents at border being held in Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Senator Dick Durbin met privately with children separated from their parents at the border who are being housed in the Chicagoland area under the care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with Heartland Alliance.

Senator Durbin brought handmade cards to some of those 66 children now being cared for in Chicago.

"I've see in them. They're toddlers and infants, and they're very little kids," he said. "It looks like a kindergarten situation or a daycare situation when you go in and visit with them."

That's because of those 66 separated kids, two thirds are 13-years-old or younger. They're being housed across nine undisclosed Heartland Alliance locations in the Chicago area.

"These children are scared when they arrive at our doors," said Heartland Alliance executive director Evelyn Diaz.

She said her team found relatives in the US for about two thirds of those kids, but the reunification process is very difficult.

"We're like on as scavenger hunt. We talk to the kids we find out if they have a destination, if they had family members they were planning to reunite with here. We ask if they have phone numbers. We call detention facilities," she said.

Heartland and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have been named in two federal lawsuits filed on behalf of Brazilian children, 9 and 15 years old, separated from their fathers at the U.S. border.

But Senator Durbin says that lawsuit has more to do with President Trump's zero tolerance immigration policy separating children from their parents than the work Heartland is doing to shelter children.

"I have great confidence in heartland alliance," Durbin said.

Lisa Madigan, along with 10 other attorneys general announcing a multi-state lawsuit saying: "The new federal executive order does not bring back together the thousands of families that were torn apart by the federal government's policy..."

And Senator Durbin is pledging to work towards a solution, saying he will take part in a bipartisan meeting with other senators.

"We're going to get together and see if we can find our way out of this," Durbin said. "A way that is humane, sensible and gives these kids a fighting chance."

Twenty two of those children being housed here in Chicago are under the age of 5.

Lutheran Church Charities comfort dogs are being sent to these kids and Senator Durbin recommends checking his website soon for an address where you or your kids can send messages and cards of support.

Durbin has had a very strong stance against Trump's zero-tolerance policy and separating families at the border, calling the action shameful and embarrassing.

Durbin said there is no clear path in President Trump's executive order for the 2,300 kids who have been separated to be reunited with their families.

"There is no deadline and that troubles me. That should have been the first line of the executive order," he said.

Earlier this week, the president issued an executive order to hold families together. Durbin called out members of the GOP.

"If they truly believe this is reprehensible and shameful, will they have the courage to stand up to this president and tell him?" Durbin asked.

There is still no deal in Congress on the larger immigration issue. The House killed one bill. A vote on a second is delayed until next week.
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