Analysis: Real Gains for Kids in Senate Gang Immigration Bill
Washington – A new analysis released today by the bipartisan children’s advocacy organization First Focus shows that immigration reform legislation sponsored by a “Gang of 8” U.S. senators offers important improvements for children over current law.
“The status quo devalues kids and tears families apart, so the ‘Gang of 8’ proposal is an important step forward,” said First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley.
Compared to current law, the Gang proposal makes several significant gains for children, including:
- An exceptionally strong version of the DREAM Act, offering eligible persons who entered the United States as children an expedited roadmap to citizenship and eliminating arbitrary age caps that had constrained prior versions of the legislation;
- A mechanism for people who entered the United States as children and later left the U.S. or were deported, but who meet some or all of the DREAM Act criteria, to be re-admitted, if they meet Homeland Security waiver criteria, and earn citizenship;
- Eliminates a double-standard in current law that disregards harm or hardship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident child, when making removal or admissibility decisions;
- An opportunity for children to earn citizenship, even if their parents do not become citizens, and exemptions from fees and penalties for children under age 16;
- A mechanism for children to reunite with parents who left the U.S. or were deported, if parents meet Homeland Security waiver criteria, and earn citizenship;
- Improvements that help children placed in state child welfare systems to reunite with parents who have been detained or deported;
- Accelerates family immigration backlog elimination;
- Ensures that “unaccompanied minor” children are represented by counsel and improves training for Customs and Border Patrol agents.
The Campaign for Children analysis also noted opportunities to improve the legislation’s alignment with principles for child-friendly immigration reform endorsed by more than 200 organizations representing children, immigrants, academia, faith communities, and civil rights:
- Eliminate unnecessary delays on the roadmap to citizenship for children under age 16 who are too young to qualify for the bill’s DREAM Act citizenship roadmap;
- Eliminate delays that deny children federally-funded health care, nutrition, and other assistance with basic needs;
“In America, every child should get the health care, food, and other basics they need to grow up strong and reach their full potential,” said Lesley. “Under this bill, kids would still have to wait up to 15 years for health coverage – that’s a lifetime for a child.”
The U.S. House of Representatives is reportedly preparing to consider immigration reform legislation. Proposals are expected in the coming weeks from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6) and a bipartisan ‘gang’ of House members.
“We look forward to working with lawmakers in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle to build an immigration plan that works for children and families.”
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The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.ffcampaignforchildren.org.
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