Wednesday, July 6, 2011

HELP Separated Children Act to be Re-Introduced

From First Focus:

Dear Colleagues,

We are writing to urge you to support the Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act or the “HELP Separated Children Act,” which will be re-introduced soon by Senator Al Franken, by signing on to an endorsement letter.  Many of you signed on last year, and we hope you can support again. The bill would require that all individuals apprehended through ICE or local enforcement measures – including individuals with detainers lodged against them - will be screened to determine if they are the parent, legal guardian or primary caregiver of a minor child in the US.  If they are found to be a parent, legal guardian or primary caregiver they will receive special protections designed to preserve family unity.  We also expect Representative Lynn Woolsey to re-introduce the companion bill in the House, and we’ll follow up to seek your support for that bill once we have final language available.

As you all know, increased ICE enforcement has resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents.  It is extremely difficult for parents to make arrangements and maintain communication with their children from immigration detention and parents are not guaranteed an opportunity to make care arrangements for their children at the time they are apprehended.  Sometimes, parents are deported and are unable to take their children with them. In the most extreme cases, children end up in foster care and there have been an increasing number of recent reports of parents who have had their parental rights terminated.  In all cases, family unity and child well-being are compromised. 

The Help Separated Children Act would provide critical, nationwide protocols to help keep children with their parents, legal guardians or primary caregivers and out of the foster care system while their parent’s, legal guardian’s or primary caregiver’s case is pending.  It does so by ensuring that parents, legal guardians and primary caregivers benefit from consideration of the best interest of their children or wards in all decisions and actions relating to their detention, release or transfer.  It also ensures that parents who must be detained can make care arrangements of their choice and have an opportunity to participate in custody proceedings and maintain a relationship with their children.  Furthermore, the bill increases parent’s, legal guardian’s and primary caregiver’s ability to be reunified with their children at the time they are deported and provides other due process protections. 

We have drafted the attached letter of support and invite your agency to sign on. To see a copy of the draft or to sign-on, please email Wendy Cervantes, First Focus, at wendyc@firstfocus.net

Deadline for signatures is Friday July 8th (5:00 PM EST) 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at (202) 657-0637.  Thank you in advance for your support.

Sincerely,

Wendy D. Cervantes
Vice President, Immigration and Child Rights Policy
First Focus
1110 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC  20005

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