Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) today joined Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) in introducing legislation that would protect the safety and well-being of children who might be left alone and vulnerable after their parents are arrested or detained by U.S. immigration authorities in communities across the country.
“As the Trump Administration steps up its efforts to separate families, we must ensure children aren’t left to fend for themselves or care for younger siblings if their parents are detained by immigration authorities. This legislation would ensure children are safe, and it protects parents’ right to decide about their children’s future. I’m proud to join Senator Smith in this effort to support immigrant families through one of the most difficult moments in their lives.”
In addition to Cortez Masto and Smith, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) also cosponsored the legislation.
The Coordinating Care for Children Affected by Immigration Enforcement Act would:
- Allow parents to make calls to arrange for the care of their children and ensure that children can call and visit their parents while they are detained;
- Allow parents to participate in family court proceedings affecting their children;
- Protect children from being compelled to serve as translators for their parents in immigration enforcement actions;
- Ensure that parents can coordinate their departures with their children; and
- Require ICE to consider the best interests of children in detention, release, and transfer decisions affecting their parents.
According to a 2011 study, there are more than five million children in the United States living with at least one unauthorized immigrant parent. The vast majority of these children are U.S. citizens. These children are vulnerable when their parents are the subjects of immigration enforcement, detention, and removal actions.
When parents facing detention are not given the opportunity to make arrangements for the care of their children, this not only results in serious, avoidable trauma to children and families, but also unnecessary expenses for the state. Children of detained parents have been needlessly taken into the custody of state or local child welfare agencies. In the most extreme cases, because of their parents’ inability to participate in family court hearings, these children have been adopted or placed into foster care with well-meaning American families. Even when the outcome is not termination of parental rights, enforcement can lead to de facto permanent separation of children from their parents and cause tremendous harm to children, undermining their sense of security and even inflicting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).