Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) cosponsored the Families Not Facilities Act, legislation that would prohibit U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from using information gathered from unaccompanied immigrant children to detain and deport their prospective sponsors. The legislation would also redirect ICE funding to programs that would provide for the safety and welfare of unaccompanied children. The bill was introduced by Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
“In the United States, we’ve always had a guiding principle when it comes to children: we do no harm,” said Cortez Masto. “Right now, children are being indefinitely held in detention facilities and tent cities that are harmful to their physical and mental well-being. Prospective sponsors who can provide better care and improve their living conditions should not have to fear ICE for coming forward to help. This bill is another step toward ensuring that we protect unaccompanied children fleeing violence in their countries of origin. These children deserve a safe home.”
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 reports on their findings.