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  • Women’s Refugee Commission Condemns New Directive on Detention of Parents

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    Washington, DC – Over the weekend, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made public its new Directive on the Detention and Removal of Alien Parents or Legal Guardians. The Directive, dated August 29, 2017, replaces ICE’s 2013 Parental Interests Directive, which was put in place to discourage the detention of parents and legal guardians who were undergoing immigration proceedings and to mitigate the collateral consequences of immigration enforcement on parental rights and child well-being.

    The 2017 Directive eliminates ICE’s earlier emphasis on the use of prosecutorial discretion to prevent primary caregivers from being detained in the first place. Also missing are provisions on facilitating the temporary return of a removed parent in order for that parent to participate in family court hearings that could terminate their parental rights.

    The 2017 Directive provides guidance to the field on accommodating a parent or legal guardian’s efforts to make childcare arrangements of their choosing at the time of arrest. This is a new addition to the Directive following extensive advocacy by the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) to discourage the practice of ICE prioritizing a call to child welfare authorities over allowing the parent to make a decision about who they want to care for their child.

    In addition, the Directive preserves language from the 2013 policy on parent-child visitation, facilitating detained parents’ and legal guardians’ ability to make travel arrangements for children, and ensures that detained parents involved in child custody proceedings can participate in family court.

    Emily Butera, a senior policy advisor with the Women’s Refugee Commission, made the following statement:

    “ICE’s 2013 Parental Interest Directive was put in place to increase the chances that families affected by a parent’s involvement in immigration proceedings would not be permanently separated. It was common sense guidance that in no way prevented ICE from enforcing immigration laws but did recognize that parents facing detention and removal should be afforded the basic dignity of being able to maintain a relationship with their children. The decision to remove discretion from ICE’s parental interests policy confirms what we already know to be true: the Administration intends to separate more families as part of their enforcement efforts. While we were pleased to see that ICE has preserved some elements of the 2013 Directive, and has recognized on paper a parent’s right to make decisions about his or her child’s care, the real test of intent will come down to how the Directive is implemented. We hope that the Trump administration will implement this new Directive as broadly as possible to help mitigate the destructive — and often lasting — effects that enforcement, detention, and removal are having on parents and their children.”