Senate Legislation Protects Children and Families Impacted by Immigration Enforcement
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) introduced the Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act, legislation that would implement critically needed reforms to protect children and families impacted by immigration enforcement. The First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, voiced its strong support for the legislation, which includes key provisions that will safeguard child well-being and family unity.
Specifically, the bill would ensure that parents and guardians apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or its surrogates are identified in a timely manner and provided the opportunity to make care arrangements for their minor children upon apprehension. The bill would prevent prolonged parent-child separation or the unnecessary loss of parental rights by ensuring that parents and guardians are able to regularly communicate with their children, the child welfare system, and family courts. The legislation would minimize hardship on children and save taxpayers millions of dollars by reducing the likelihood that children will be placed unnecessarily into the foster care system.
“The ramifications of our broken immigration policies are evident every day, and far too often it is our children who suffer the most. Innocent children are needlessly separated from their parents due to their parent’s detention or deportation, and some are unnecessarily ending up in the child welfare system,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the First Focus Campaign for Children. “Separation from a parent is detrimental to the life-long physical, social, and mental health of any child. It is imperative that Congress reform our immigration enforcement policies to ensure that we are taking into account the best interest of our children and respecting the fundamental principle of family unity.
“We applaud Senator Franken and Senator Kohl for their leadership in introducing this important piece of legislation which will ensure that our immigration enforcement policies are humane and do not compromise our American values of protecting all children and keeping families together. We are delighted to endorse such a measure, which will ultimately promote the safety and well-being of our nation’s children.”
Specific provisions of the HELP Separated Children Act include:
- Screening of parents and guardians by child welfare agencies and NGOs.
- Timely notification of schools, child welfare agencies, and NGOs regarding enforcement actions.
- Access to free, confidential phone calls for parents and guardians to make care arrangements for their children.
- Collaboration between ICE and child welfare agencies to ensure that parents have regular contact with their children and are able to meaningfully participate in family court proceedings.
- Consideration of the best interest of children in all decisions regarding the detention, release, and transfer of a parent or guardian.
The bill has the support of Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and has been endorsed by over 150 national and state organizations.
Similar legislation, also known as the HELP Separated Children Act (HR 3531), has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
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