Rep. Bruce Poliquin announced Friday that he is signing onto a bill directing the Department of Homeland Security to immediately reunite migrant children with their parents and to cease separating such families going forward.

“I’m pushing legislation specifically directing and requiring the administration to quickly reunify the families who have been separated,” Poliquin, a Republican who represents Maine’s 2nd District, said in a statement. “In addition, I stand ready to work with Democrats and Republicans in a bipartisan way in passing appropriate additional legislation, if it is needed, to provide the administration with assistance from Congress.”

Poliquin is co-sponsoring the Family Reunification Act, which was introduced Thursday by Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Michigan. It directs Homeland Security – which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol, to use “all necessary means” to ensure children taken from their families at the border are reunified with them “at the earliest possible date.”

The move comes amid increasing public pressure to reunite the children – thought to number around 2,000 – who include babies and toddlers. President Trump, whose administration ordered the separations, signed an executive order Wednesday that temporarily reverses the policy, but did not appear to direct federal officials to reunite families they had already broken up.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat representing Maine’s 1st District, departed for South Texas on Friday to join more than 20 Democratic colleagues in an inspection of child detention facilities there. She has expressed concern that journalists, attorneys and members of Congress have not been given access to facilities holding babies and girls, and about reports that children were being denied physical contact with caretakers and siblings, and that some distraught children are being tranquilized.

Pingree announced Thursday that she had joined 59 Democratic colleagues in signing a letter demanding DHS provide detailed information on the whereabouts and treatment of women, babies and children now in detention, including what services were being provided to pregnant women, how infants taken from breastfeeding mothers were being fed, and what precautions were being taken to avoid children being abused.

Huizenga said Thursday that he had introduced his bill because he was concerned about the ambiguity regarding family reunification. After the president issued his executive order “DHS was saying that they did not have an immediate plan to then reunify the kids that had been separated already,” he told the Detroit News. “That’s what prompted me to say: ‘Look, we can’t have that situation, either.’ We have to have them move toward reunification.”

Poliquin said in his statement that both parties had neglected immigration reform for decades and that he was “continuing to work to get it done,” but that “right now, the urgent matter at hand is making sure these families can remain together and working to reunify those who have been separated.”

“There is no reason,” he added, “both can’t be done.”

Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

[email protected]

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