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Chuck Schumer: Appoint 'czar' to handle migrant children

Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday urged installation of

Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday urged installation of a "czar" to act on behalf of migrant children. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Sen. Chuck Schumer urged the Trump administration Sunday to appoint a “czar” to take control of the federal government’s efforts to reunify migrant children with their families.

Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said three federal bureaucracies — the Justice Department, Health and Human Services, and Customs and Border Patrol — have been involved in separating children from their families at the border or detaining them since the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy went into effect in April.

A czar with broad powers and White House authorization would have the power to cut through red tape and coordinate efforts to reunite kids with their families, Schumer said.

“Three different agencies, three different Cabinet members in charge,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during a news conference in his midtown Manhattan office Sunday. “No one is really in charge if there are three people in charge. We need one person in charge. We all know when the solutions involve different agencies, the problems don’t get solved at all or get solved too slowly. A czar would bring everybody together and have the authority of the president and the White House to get the job done.”

The czar would report directly to President Donald Trump and would have the authority to dictate policies aimed at reunifying families to Cabinet members and other officials, Schumer said.

“Often each agency and each bureaucracy says, ‘I want to do it my way’ and the ways don’t mesh and there are real problems,” the senator said.

Figures released late Saturday by the Department of Homeland Security state that 522 children out of more than 2,500 have been reunited since the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy was rolled out in mid-April.

But many children placed in the custody of Health and Human Services have been relocated to states far from the southern border, including New York, and reuniting them with their families will be challenging.

“There are thousands of kids lost in limbo, there are thousands of parents waiting,” Schumer said. “The worry is that the process could take a very long time, much longer than it should. So we have to find a way to expedite the process, to move quickly and strongly. And that is what a czar would do.”

Schumer said he did not have a specific person in mind for the job but he believes there are several people inside and outside the administration who are qualified.

The czar should have the authority to collect and share information with the public about the specific number of children separated from their parents at the border as well as their locations, Schumer added.

“Transparency would be one of the goals of the czar,” Schumer said, “but that’s only the first step to solving the problem, which is really reunifying children with their parents.”

Schumer said the administration has already signaled it believes Trump can appoint a czar to manage the reunification process.

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled out the zero-tolerance policy along the southwest border in April, he said government offices could identify and request additional resources necessary to implement that policy.

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