June 21, 2018

Van Hollen Announces New Effort to Help Constituents Access Information About Family Members Detained at the Border

Today U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen announced that he successfully secured language as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill to help Members of Congress better serve constituents who are looking for information about family members who have been detained at the border and potentially separated from their children.
Currently, when people are taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it is very difficult for their family members in Maryland and across the country to get information on where they are. Members of Congress are able to inquire with federal agencies on their behalf, but only once the detainee has signed a privacy waiver form – but with proceedings shrouded in secrecy, getting these forms often proves impossible. This language would ensure that anyone taken into DHS/ICE custody would be provided a privacy waiver form.
“In addition to hearing from thousands of constituents horrified by the President’s family separation policies, my office hears from many families in Maryland desperate to help members of their family who are in ICE detention as their immigration cases are being processed,” said Senator Van Hollen. “By ensuring every person detained by DHS and ICE has access to a privacy waiver form, we will be better able to serve the people we represent and help reunite families.”
The text of the amendment, which was included in the manager’s package of amendments to the bill, was overwhelmingly passed by the full Senate Appropriations Committee. The text is below:
"The Committee recognizes that federal agencies are prohibited from releasing information concerning an individual to a third party under the Privacy Act of 1974.  However, the Committee is concerned by reports that detainees and their attorneys and their family members have faced difficulty receiving and submitting the DHS/ICE ‘Privacy Waiver Authorizing Disclosure to a Third Party’ form. Without this form, members of Congress cannot make inquiries on behalf of their constituents.  The Committee advises ICE to provide every detainee, upon entering ICE custody, with a copy of the ‘Privacy Waiver Authorizing Disclosure to a Third Party’ form in order to facilitate Congressional inquiries."