Last week the Child Welfare League of America endorsed and signed onto a national letter of support for two bills by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) that would extend protections and rights to children and families that have been separated by U.S. immigration policies.

The two bills are the Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act (H.R. 3451) and the Help Separated Families Act (H.R. 3452), both of which would codify protections for children who may be separated from their parents by immigration enforcement actions in the interior.

The Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act would allow parents to arrange for the care of their children prior to being taken into custody and before deportation. It would require continued contact between detained parents and children and ensure parents can participate in proceedings fully. The bill also requires immigration agents to undergo training and to refrain from interrogating parents in front of children or using children as translators.

The sign-on letter that includes more than 200 national and state organizations was spearheaded by CLASP and directed to Congress said:

“As organizations committed to promoting the health and wellbeing of children, youth, and families, we stand united against the administration’s harsh immigration enforcement agenda and the harm it is imposing on more than a quarter of children in the United States, the majority of whom are U.S. citizens.”

The Help Separated Families Act includes critical provisions to address barriers that may prevent children in the child welfare system from being able to reunify with a detained or deported parent or to be placed in the care of a family member. The bill prohibits immigration status alone from being a factor in placement decisions and permits certain forms of foreign identification for purposes of a background check. These provisions can help in placing these children in relative-kinship care. The bill allows child welfare agencies to delay the process for terminating parental rights in cases when a parent is detained or deported, unless certain conditions are met. Even before this latest immigration battle there were challenges within U.S. child welfare state systems when some children could be reunified with their parent(s) but the parent was in another country, and communication and other barriers prevented appropriate reunification.

In introducing the bills, Congresswoman Roybal-Allard said,

“As President Trump threatens to carry out a new wave of ICE raids that will lead to further heartrending separations of immigrant families, it is vital that we fight to keep families together, and support the children who are being torn from their families by this administration’s despicable family separation policies.”