Immigration was heating up again last week from its slow boil to full steam on two fronts. The President created tremendous anxiety with the advocacy and certainly the immigration communities when he tweeted his desire for more raids and deportations. On Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was holding a hearing on his bill S 1494, the Secure and Protect Act of 2019.
Among other items the Graham bill would overrule the protections for immigrant children by superseding the court-dictated Flores agreement. The Flores agreement dating back to 1997, requires immigration officials to place detained children in the least restrictive setting possible and to release children to relatives or licensed programs willing to accept the children and to detain children for no more than 20 days.
The Graham bill would supersede the Flores agreement and state authority by preempting any state regulation or standards for facilities these children are detained in. The federal government, not the state law, would oversee health and safety standards. The Graham bill could never get through the House if it makes it out of the Senate, but the President’s threats hold more immediate concern.
On Monday night the president tweeted that ICE agents are planning the removal of “millions” of undocumented aliens. But beyond that and some campaign rhetoric it is unclear who will be targeted and where in the country. By Tuesday ICE officials were not clear on what the President was thinking of when he announced the removal of millions. By the end of the week there were spreading reports that raids would begin on Sunday and then the President seemed to delay action for possibly two weeks.
Advocates across the country, including CWLA, are concerned about the impact of any such raids and their long-term impact on child health and wellbeing. Children, including citizen children in many of these situations, who witness a parent’s arrest are more likely to suffer mental health and behavioral problems. There is also the impact of separation and isolation of these children.