Press Releases

Reps. Roybal-Allard and Torres Introduce Help Separated Families Act

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Washington, March 26, 2018 | Ben Soskin ((202) 225-1766) | comments
Today, Congresswomen Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and Norma Torres (CA-35) introduced the Help Separated Families Act of 2018, which would make important policy changes to keep children of detained or deported parents united with their families.  The bill’s introduction comes as a growing number of children are separated from their families and placed in the child welfare system following a parent’s detention or removal by immigration authorities.

The Help Separated Families Act of 2018 aims to keep children of detained or deported parents united with their families. Specifically, the bill:

• Ensures that the immigration status of a parent, legal guardian, or relative caregiver is not by itself grounds for disqualification from being a placement for a child;
• Requires that child welfare agencies accept foreign documentation as sufficient identification for the purposes of a child welfare placement background check; and
• Prohibits child welfare agencies from filing for termination of parental rights in cases when a fit and willing parent or relative has been deported, detained, or is otherwise involved in an immigration proceeding, unless certain conditions have been met.

“The Trump Administration’s heartless anti-immigrant policies are tearing children from the loving arms of their undocumented parents,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard, who first introduced the Help Separated Families Act in 2012.  “It is time for our government to affirm that your immigration status should not prohibit you from being a parent.  That is why I am reintroducing the Help Separated Families Act.  I am glad to be joined in this effort by Congresswoman Norma Torres.  Our bill will help keep families together in the face of this Administration’s cruel and extreme immigration enforcement actions.”

“WRC applauds this effort by Representatives Roybal-Allard and Torres to help ensure that children in the child welfare system who have detained or deported parents will be able to reunify with their parents or live in the permanent care of other relatives, and that states have the ability and flexibility to appropriately serve families affected by enforcement and to work towards the goal of family reunification,” said Emily Butera, senior policy advisor in the Women’s Refugee Commission’s (WRC) Migrant Rights & Justice program.

“We applaud Congresswoman Roybal-Allard for her steadfast commitment to protecting the interests of children who are often the forgotten victims of harsh immigration enforcement policies,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).  “Our recent research found that even the youngest children—most of whom are U.S. citizens—are living every day with the fear that their parents could be taken away.  Those who have already lost a parent as a result of immigration enforcement suffer the greatest harm to their stability and long-term development.  The Help Separated Families Act is an important bill that would help children who end up in the child welfare system to reunify with their detained or deported parents and protect them from the unimaginable consequence of being permanently separated.”

When a child enters the child welfare system, reunification efforts with their families are often complicated by a lack of coordination between the federal immigration system and state child welfare systems.  It is considered a child welfare best practice to place children who are separated from their parents with other relatives, yet many child welfare agencies refuse to place children with otherwise qualified family members solely because the relatives are undocumented.  In addition, child welfare agencies may be reluctant to reunify children with a parent or relative outside of the U.S. following a parent’s removal, which can result in the inappropriate termination of parental rights.  As a result, children are needlessly separated from their parents.  With the Administration’s expansion of interior enforcement, parental deportation and family separation can now impact families living almost anywhere in the country.  

The Trump Administration’s destructive family separation practices have made headlines across America.  The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board and the Washington Post Editorial Board recently published opinion pieces highlighting the practice of separating children from immigrant parents while they fight to stay in the U.S.  A recent Time Magazine cover story also highlighted the shattering impact of this Administration’s family separation policies.  Passing the Help Separated Families Act would help keep families united in the face of the Trump Administration’s immigration policies.

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