Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), along with Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), in re-introducing the Families Not Facilities Act, legislation that would prohibit U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from using information gathered in the process of resettling unaccompanied immigrant children to take civil enforcement actions against prospective sponsors and all individuals who reside with them. The legislation would also redirect ICE funding to programs that would provide for the safety and welfare of unaccompanied children.
“Keeping unaccompanied children in detention facilities indefinitely and forcing them to live in tent cities is inhumane,” said Cortez Masto. “Our guiding principle in caring for these children should always be to do no harm. The prospective sponsors, many of whom are family members, should be able to care for these children during their time of need without fear of deportation. We must continue to do all we can to ensure the safety and welfare of families and children who are fleeing violence to find a safe and secure life in the United States.”
“No potential sponsor who intends to build a safe and nurturing home for an unaccompanied immigrant child should be deterred from coming forward due to fear of a civil ICE enforcement action,” said Harris. “This is leaving these vulnerable children to languish in unacceptable conditions in government custody. Unaccompanied children at the border deserve our compassion and assistance, and we must do more to ensure that our government is respecting the human rights and dignity of the youngest among us.”
“At every turn, this administration has put its hate-filled immigration agenda over the best interests of children,” said Wyden. “If this administration won’t ensure these kids have the support and care they deserve, then Congress must.”
The Families Not Facilities Act would:
- Prohibit the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from using U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) information provided by an unaccompanied child, or initially obtained to evaluate sponsorship of an unaccompanied child, to conduct civil immigration enforcement actions against a child, prospective or current custodian or sponsor, or resident in the home of the prospective or current custodian or sponsor.
- Transfer ICE FY2019 Enforcement and Removal Funding to the new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) programs intended to provide unaccompanied children with comprehensive social work services and connect them with legal representation. It also transfers funds to the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Program and the HHS Task Force to Prevent and End Human Trafficking.
- Create an ORR Advisory Committee on Shelters comprised of nonprofit immigration and child welfare experts and require the committee to publish public reports on their findings.