Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Children Join the Call for Family Unity and Humane Immigration Enforcement

Last Wednesday, dozens of children delivered thousands of hand-written letters and drawings asking Congress to refrain from deporting their family members as part of the "Wish for the Holidays - 2012" initiative.  The advocacy project from We Belong Together (Women Unite for our Children and Families) is in its second year - a joint effort of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum.  As reported here by New American Media, children delivered over 5,000 letters collected from children across the United States.  Photos from the event were captured by the National Domestic Workers Alliance and posted on their Facebook page:


The "Children's Declaration on Immigrant Rights and Family Unity", drafted by the movement, demands changes in immigration laws that would keep families together and free children from the fear of their parents being deported. 

The same day that the children delivered their letters, Immigration Policy Center and First Focus released a new fact sheet entitled, "Falling Through the Cracks: The Impact of Immigration Enforcement on Children Caught Up in the Child Welfare System", available here.  Building on increased awareness of the story of Felipe Montes, who won the fight to keep his U.S. citizen children after they were placed in North Carolina's foster care system following his deportation (highlighted on this blog a few weeks ago), the fact sheet highlights major deficiencies in ICE's policies that separate families, sometimes permanently.  Namely, it notes the lack of guidelines for screening for parents apprehended outside of worksite operations and the lack of a consistent policy allowing arrestees to make phone calls at the time of their arrest. 

With state and federal officials charged with enforcing the laws and state child welfare systems saddled with the resulting child placement issues, both federal and state responses are required.  As I noted in an earlier post, California has taken the lead by passing two laws that directly address the issues highlighted in the fact sheet.  A federal law proposed in 2010 and reintroduced in 2011 called the "HELP Separated Children Act" would implement screening procedures to identify parents or guardians of minor children in the United States and provide them special protections to preserve family unity.  It has failed to pass both years.  Whether the immigration reform efforts on the horizon emerge as comprehensive or piecemeal, these existing sources of practical solutions serve as a helpful starting point. 

A gallery of the letters and drawings from the children by state can be found here.

-- Sarah Rogerson


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