June 20, 2018

In Indian Affairs Hearing, Udall Addresses Family Separation Policy: We Once Pledged ‘Never Again’


For Immediate Release

June 20, 2018

Contact: Ned Adriance

202.228.6870 | news@tomudall.senate.gov|  @SenatorTomUdall


WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, issued the following statement on the troubling historical parallels between former federal policies that separated Native families during the ‘Boarding School Era’ and the current family separation crisis caused by the Trump administration’s so-called “zero tolerance” policy on immigration. Udall submitted the statement for the record during a committee oversight hearing on subsistence in Indian Country:


“Subsistence is a way of life for tribal communities that depends on passing traditional ecological knowledge down between generations.  Today, we are going to talk about modern threats to subsistence, such as climate change. But, it was not that long ago that the major threat to subsistence – to all traditional practices – was the federal Boarding School policy.


“Members of this committee are well aware that the Boarding School Era is one of this country’s most tragic periods – when presidents and Congress allowed Native children to bear the brunt of federal policies designed to solve the ‘Indian problem.’


“And, even though we are decades removed from that misguided era, the impacts of cultural and community disruption still reverberate today. We hear it repeatedly in the testimony of tribal leaders and Native youth who come to speak with the committee. 


“Our response, as members of Congress, has always been to pledge: ‘never again.’


“Well, we are now called to uphold that pledge. The Trump administration’s actions are an attempt to write another chapter of the Boarding School Era, this time for immigrant families. It is once again putting forward a federal policy that tears children from the arms of their mother and fathers – this time to solve the ‘border problem.’


“We cannot – in good conscience and as members of this committee – let this practice disrupt another generation. While the president just announced he would sign an Executive Order ending his inhumane policy of separating families at the border, I remind my colleagues here today that we cannot be too vigilant.


“And, we must not consider this matter settled until the details of this order are known and every last child is returned to their families.”


Before submitting the statement, Udall noted that tribal leaders in New Mexico and across Indian Country, including National Congress of American Indians President and Chickasaw Nation Lt. Governor Jefferson Keel, have spoken out against the separation policy.