“We can’t leave young children to fend for themselves – sometimes for long periods of time – if their parents are caught up and detained by our immigration officials. This legislation would ensure that we don’t see any more cases like the second-grader in Worthington who had to take care of his two-year-old brother for a week after his parents were detained by immigration authorities.”
– Sen. Al Franken
Today Senator Franken (D-MN), joined by Senators Durbin (D-IL), Gillibrand and Klobuchar (D-MN), and Representative Woolsey (D-CA-6) re-introduced the Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act. This legislation would provide crucial protection for children and families separated by enforcement actions.
With the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimating it will detain 440,000 immigrants this year alone, it is imperative that protections are put in place to ensure that the children of detained migrants are not needlessly placed in foster care when their parents could arrange care for them. A recent study highlighted the gap in protections that many separated families face. DHS has put into place policies to ensure basic protections for children whose parents are apprehended in raids that involve more than 25 people, but most family separation cases arise from enforcement actions of a smaller scale. The HELP Act is a vital step toward protecting the unity of families separated through smaller, but no less traumatic, enforcement actions.
When parents are apprehended at their worksite, home or after a minor traffic violation, it triggers a complex series of events that can end in separation from their children and families. DHS often does not allow parents the chance to help make arrangements for their children. And if someone doesn’t take in the children, the children may end up in the state welfare system. DHS holds parents in immigration detention centers scattered across the country that lack adequate access to phones and legal counsel. Without access to these vital resources, parents cannot communicate with their child or defend their rights.
The HELP Separated Children Act would require DHS to allow licensed social workers, case workers or local non-government organizations to screen individuals at the time of apprehension to determine if they have children in the United States. If they have children in the United States, the bill would compel DHS to consider the welfare of these children before making a decision regarding the detention, release, and transfer of a parent. If DHS decides that the parent must be detained, detention facilities must provide them with regular, confidential phone calls to help arrange for the care of their children who have been left behind. Finally, if the parents are to be deported, the bill would provide the parents with adequate time to secure the necessary travel documents if their children will accompany them on their return to their country of origin.
LIRS is deeply concerned that the U.S. immigration system separates families, particularly families with children. Join LIRS in supporting the HELP Separated Children Act by visiting our Action Center.
Send a note to your members of Congress and let them know that the United States should do more to stand up for family unity.
Click here to read the LIRS statement of support.