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Women’s Refugee Commission Welcomes Bicameral Legislation to Minimize Harmful Effects of Immigration Enforcement on Children

Washington, D.C. — The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) today welcomed the reintroduction of legislation to lessen the harmful effects of immigration enforcement on children whose parents have been arrested, detained, or deported. The “Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections for Separated Children Act” or the “HELP Separated Children Act,” introduced in the Senate by Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and in the House by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), seeks to minimize the risk that immigration enforcement actions will result in permanent family separation and seeks to ensure that parents in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody can maintain a relationship with their children and make decisions about their care.

The HELP Separated Children Act provides every parent apprehended by ICE the opportunity to make phone calls for the purpose of making childcare arrangements within two hours of being apprehended. In the event children are present at the time of apprehension, the bill affords parents an opportunity to console their children and inform them who will be caring for them in the parent’s absence. The bill also sets minimum standards for treatment of detained parents, allowing them regular contact with their children, the opportunity to make long-term childcare arrangements whether they want their children to remain in the U.S. or join them in their home country, and the ability to participate in proceedings that may lead to termination of their parental rights.

Emily Butera, senior policy advisor at WRC’s Migrant Rights and Justice program, made the following statement:

“Since taking office, the Trump administration has unleashed a wave of indiscriminate immigration enforcement that is tearing apart families and communities across the country. No harm is greater than that experienced by children who come home to an empty house or, worse, witness their parents being taken away in front of them by armed immigration agents. We know from experience that when immigration enforcement is carried out without regard for the consequences on children, families can be permanently broken apart, parents may lose their parental rights, and children show signs of toxic stress that can set them up for a lifetime of adversity. The long-term consequences on children who lose a parent are devastating and often irreversible. The Women’s Refugee Commission commends Senator Smith and Representative Roybal-Allard for introducing this important legislation to help lessen the damage that the Trump administration’s policies are having on children and families.”