Bipartisan Amendment to Keep Families Together Passes Senate Committee
Washington – The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today approved an amendment sponsored by Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to strengthen protections for children in the Senate “Gang of 8” comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 744). The amendment was cosponsored by Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Democratic Senators Chris Coons (Del.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), and by Republican Senators John Cornyn (Texas) and Ted Cruz (Texas). The Franken-Grassley amendment would keep families together whenever possible and help mitigate harm to children, including preventing children from entering foster care when immigration enforcement results in the detention or removal of their parents. Specific Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections for Separated Children Act (“HELP” Separated Children Act) provisions would:
- Allow parents affected by immigration enforcement to make calls to arrange for the care of their children;
- Ensure that children can call or visit their parents while they are detained;
- Allow parents to participate in state child welfare agency and family court proceedings affecting their children;
- Ensure that parents being removed from or voluntarily departing the United States can coordinate their repatriation with their children;
- Require immigration officials to consider the best interests of children in detention, release, and transfer decisions affecting their parents; and
- Provide training for immigration and detention facility personnel on best practices for protecting children.
The amendment was passed on a unanimous recorded vote of 18-0. In response, First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley released the following statement:
“Immigration enforcement tears children and parents apart. But the bipartisan Franken-Grassley amendment helps protect kids and keeps families together. The Franken-Grassley amendment will let immigration officials focus on law enforcement, state child welfare agencies focus scarce resources where they’re most needed, and give kids a better chance at staying with their 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.