HIAS Commends Introduction of the HELP for Separated Children Act

Posted on Tue, Jun 22, 2010 at 17:44 pm

(New York, NY) – HIAS, the international migration agency of the American Jewish community, commends Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) for introducing the Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act.

There currently are 5.5 million children of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States. Four million of these children are legal citizens, yet they live in fear of their parents’ deportation. The mixed status of such families renders children vulnerable to a separation by the law, either temporarily or permanently, in which all contact is cut. Over the past ten years, 100,000 parents of U.S. citizens were deported, leaving their children with relatives or in foster care.

The HELP for Separated Children Act would help remedy this degradation of family unity by defining the rights of detained adults with children, documented or otherwise. Specifically, the legislation ensures that children are not forced to witness their parents’ interrogations or serve as translators for ICE; it allows parents to arrange for care of their children from detention centers; it allows NGOs to screen detainees to identify those who have children but may be afraid to tell ICE; and it ensures that schools and child welfare agencies are notified before or soon after enforcement raids so they can help affected children.

“This legislation presents common sense solutions to protect children who have done nothing wrong yet end up suffering the most in the aftermath of an immigration raid,” said Melanie Nezer, HIAS' Senior Director for U.S. Programs and Advocacy. “HIAS is a proud supporter of this legislation and will work towards its passage this Congress.”

The HELP for Separated Children Act also has the support of Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Diane Feinstein (D-CA). Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) introduced a companion bill in the House.