Five Days of Action for Children in the Immigration System
If you are a Washington State resident, please join IPJC in participating in the “Five Days of Action for Children in the Immigration System” Campaign, May 14th– May 18th.
May 14th to May 18th, 2018
The Trump administration has zealously altered the US immigration system in the last year and a half, seeking new ways to limit legal immigration, and new ways to punish unauthorized immigration. The administration’s gratuitous cruelty towards immigrants harms many thousands of children every year.
Over five days, organizations across Washington state are going to force a sense of urgency on our members of Congress, and demand they prioritize work on these issues:
Monday: Separating families in detention
Tuesday: Losing thousands of children placed into protective custody
Wednesday: Imprisoning pregnant women
Thursday: Letting children defend themselves alone in immigration court
Friday: Changing the meaning of “public charge”
- Sen. Patty Murray: DC: (202) 224-2621; Seattle: (206) 553-5545
- Sen. Maria Cantwell: DC: (202) 224-3441; Seattle: (206) 220-6400
- Rep. Suzan DelBene: DC: (202) 225-6311; Bothell: (425) 485-0085
- Rep. Rick Larsen: DC: (202) 225-2605; Everett: (425) 252-3188
- Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler: DC: (202) 225-3536; Vancouver: (360) 695-6292
- Rep. Dan Newhouse: DC: (202) 225-5816; Tri-Cities: (509) 713-7374
- Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers: DC: (202) 225-2006; Spokane: (509) 353-2374
- Rep. Derek Kilmer: DC: (202) 225-5916; Tacoma: (253) 272-3515
- Rep. Pramila Jayapal: DC: 202-225-3106; Seattle: 206-674-0040
- Rep. David Reichert: DC: (202) 225-7761; Issaquah: (425) 677-7414
- Rep. Adam Smith: DC: (202) 225-8901; Renton: (425) 793-5180
- Rep. Denny Heck: DC: (202) 225-9740; Lakewood: (253) 533-8332
Tips when calling
- Be polite, but passionate. Use your own words;
- For the most impact, call the local and national office, and follow up with an email;
- Have staffers repeat back your key points to ensure they’ve got it.
Monday, May 14
Stop separating families in detention
DHS has been toying with separating families detained at the border since the start of the Trump administration. To deter illegal entry and asylum seekers, DHS Secretary John Kelly announced a separation policy in March 2017, but backed off under intense criticism.
Nevertheless, the New York Times discovered that more than 700 children have been taken from adults claiming to be their parents since October 2017, including more than 100 children under the age of 4. In one prominent case, a 7-year-old Congolese girl was separated from her mother for over four months, despite the fact that her mother broke no laws when she presented herself to border agents in order to apply for asylum.
Attorney General Sessions recently announced a policy of charging every person apprehended crossing the border with a crime. This move would guarantee separation of families, by sending children to the Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement while their parents are held in detention centers to await trial.
DHS needs to stop terrorizing children to deter migrants and asylum seekers. It’s cruel, it’s immoral, and it’s unnecessary. It is a violation of U.S. law to separate children from their parents in order to deter illegal immigration.
ICE must not separate families who are apprehended entering the country, or who ask for asylum. Despite repeated assurances to the contrary, instances of asylum-seeking families being separated are common and well documented.
DHS should abandon their plan to charge all people apprehended at the border with a crime. They should keep families together in family detention centers, or release them on bond while they wait for a decision on their status.
“Trump administration to step up family separation at the border.” Ted Hesson, Politico, May 7, 2018.
“Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken From Parents at U.S. Border.” Caitlin Dickerson. New York Times. April 20, 2018.
“Top Homeland Security officials urge criminal prosecution of parents crossing border with children.” Maria Sacchetti, Washington Post, April 26, 2018.
“Watchdog to investigate DHS family separations in immigration custody.” Tal Kopan. CNN Politics, April 16, 2018.
“ACLU sues over separation of mother, 7-year-old daughter seeking asylum.” Nomaan Merchant, Associated Press. Chicago Tribune, February 26, 2018.
Tuesday, May 15
Stop losing children in protective custody
When DHS separates children from their parents, these children enter a system of custody with a shocking history of failures that places them at risk of being harmed.
On April 26th while testifying before a Senate subcommittee, officials from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealed that in the last year, they lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children in a three month period, that they had placed into the custody of adult sponsors.
Unfortunately, abuse of children under HHS’ supervision is widespread and well-documented. A Frontline documentary, “Trafficked in America” (2018) described how Guatamalan teens were delivered to traffickers by HHS, who then forced the teens to work against their will at a chicken processing plant in Ohio.
And in 2016, the Associated Press reported that dozens of children put into “protective custody” were found to have been sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work for little or no pay. Problems this severe date back to at least the 1990s.
Despite Congressional hearings on these problems, it’s clear that serious harm to children continues.
Congress must continue to pursue this abysmal treatment of children aggressively, using every power of oversight at their disposal. DHS should abandond its newly proposed plan to check the citizenship status of familiy members who would otherwise be able to take custody of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border. And DHS should not be planning to separate more children from their parents while this protective custody system is so fundamentally broken.
Sen. Murray sits on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, which has oversight over HHS. Ask the senator to investigate why, when HHS takes custody of children from DHS, the children under their care have been sexually assaulted, starved, forced to work, or even lost.
Email the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, and thank them for their bipartisan oversight of this issue, that has brought so much of this information to light. Ask them continue pursuing this matter with DHS and the Office of Refugee Resettlement in HHS.
Thank Pramila Jayapal for co-sponsoring the Help Separated Families Act of 2018 (H.R. 5414). This bill would allow HHS to place children with relatives regardless of their immigration status (including parents). Other representatives in our state should co-sponsor this bill. Our senators should sponsor an equivalent bill in the senate.
“Almost 1,500 Migrant Children Placed in Homes by the U.S. Government Went Missing Last Year.” Garnace Burke, Associated Press. TIME, April 26, 2018.
“Trafficked in America.” Frontline, April 24, 2018.
“The Reuniting Immigrant Families Act: A Case Study on California’s Senate Bill 1064.” Yali Lincroft, First Focus Campaign for Children. May 2013.
“Oversight of HHS and DHS Efforts to Protect Unaccompanied Alien Children from Human Trafficking and Abuse.” U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs Hearing, April 26, 2018.
Wednesday, May 16
Stop imprisoning pregnant women
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is ending its practice of automatically releasing pregnant women from detention. In the for-profit immigrant detention system where good medical care impacts the company’s bottom line, healthcare is substandard and detention for pregnant women can be harmful.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
“Pregnant women and adolescents should have access to high levels of care, care that is not available in these facilities. The conditions in [Department of Homeland Security] facilities are not appropriate for pregnant women or children.”
Detention should be dropped in favor of less costly, more humane alternatives. For example, in June 2017, ICE ended a successful program called the Family Case Management Program. According to Ann Schlarb, the senior vice president of the GEO Group, the private prison company that ran the program, 99 percent of the program’s participants “successfully attended their court appearances and ICE check-ins.”
Congress should pressure ICE to revoke a policy of imprisoning pregnant women by default, in favor of other approaches the agency has demonstrated will work to pursue civil immigration violations without risking the health of women or their pregnancies.
Thank Rep. Jayapal and Rep. Smith for addressing this issue in part through the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act of 2017 (H.R. 3923), which would substantially reform the immigrant detention system. Rep. Jayapal also wrote an opinion piece about this issue in The Hill. Ask both our senators to introduce a similar bill to the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act in the senate (Rep. Jayapal is asking Sen. Booker to introduce the bill, but why not Washington state’s senators?)
Congress should ask the DHS Office of the Inspector General to investigate the medical care given to pregnant women in detention to ensure it meets standards set by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“ICE will detain pregnant women, ending previous policy.” Rafael Bernal. The Hill, March 29, 2018.
“In ICE detention, pregnant women face stress, trauma, and inadequate care.” Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard and Representative Pramila Jayapal. The Hill, April 25, 2018.
“A New Official ICE Policy Calls for the Detention of Pregnant Women.” Katie Shepherd, American Immigration Council. Immigration Impact, March 30, 2018.
“Systemic Indifference: Dangerous & Substandard Medical Care in US Immigration Detention.” Human Rights Watch, May 8, 2017.
“AAP, medical groups urge ICE not to detain pregnant women.” APP News, April 2, 2018.
Thursday, May 17
Provide lawyers for children in immigration court
Immigrants in deportation proceedings are not guaranteed legal representation. Yet without representation, immigrants face a much greater chance of being deported. Unfortunately, our government expects children as young as 3 or 4 years of age to defend themselves in immigration courts alone, without a lawyer present. The immigrant court system essentially treats them as adults, with no obligation to do what is in the best interests of the child (the standard for criminal courts).
Children who represent themselves in immigration court are five times more likely to be deported. Of the 41,456 unaccompanied children apprehended by the border patrol in 2017, many will be sent back to the danger they were attempting to flee.
While this situation existed before Trump, his administration is working hard to undermine the protection of children in our immigration system. Recently Trump has referred to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) as a “loophole.” Congress passed this law to ensure that children arriving at the border were not immediately sent back into a harmful situation. USCIS has stopped considering 19 to 21-year-olds for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), which gives young people protection in cases of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Finally, Trump ended the Central American Minors (CAM) Program, under which 1,500 children from Central American countries were able to seek and gain asylum status while still in their own country.
Our members of Congress need to publicly and forcefully reject Trump’s racist characterization of the TVPRA and similar laws and programs as “loopholes” through which criminals use children as “human shields” to enter the country. Sen. Feinstein’s Washington Post editorial is a good example in this regard.
Thank Rep. Jayapal for co-sponsoring the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2017 (H.R. 2043), which insures all children have legal representation in the immigration courts. Ask all other representatives in Washington state to co-sponsor this bill. Ask both our senators to co-sponsor the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2018 (S. 2468). Neither have co-sponsored this bill.
“Can a 3-year old represent herself in immigration court? This judge thinks so.” Jerry Markson, Washington Post, March 5, 2016.
“Policy Brief: Unaccompanied Immigrant Children: Vulnerable Children Face Insurmountable Obstacles.” National Immigrant Justice Center, January 27, 2014.
“The TVPRA Is Not A Loophole.” KIND, January 29, 2018.
“Protecting defenseless children is not an immigration ‘loophole’.” Senator Dianne Feinstein. Washington Post, April 13, 2018.
“A Rule Is Changed for Young Immigrants, and Green Card Hopes Fade.” Liz Robbins, New York Times, April 18, 2018.
“U.S. program for Central American child refugees to end Thursday.” Reuters, November 8, 2017.
Friday, May 18
Do not change the “public charge” rules
Our final day of action involves a proposed regulatory change to what is known as the “public charge” rule. When evaluating an applicant for a visa or green card, the government considers the likelihood that the applicant might end up on some form of public assistance. USCIS currently defines public assistance as receiving over half of your income from cash forms of assistance (such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, or long-term care through Medicaid). The administration proposes to expand this rule to include additional forms of assistance, including tax credits that are only available to working people:
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC);
- low-income component of the Child Tax Credit;
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
- ACA subsidies;
- SNAP (formerly known as food stamps)
These rule changes would cover not only benefits granted to current legal immigrants, but also to their U.S. citizen spouses and children.
The Kaiser Foundation estimates that nearly 20 million children living in immigrant families could be affected by these proposed changes. The change would have a particularly harsh impact on pregnant women and children, who might forgo health care and nutrition assistance programs to protect their immigration status. The New York Times reported in March that “Immigrants hoping for permanent residence are dropping out of public nutrition programs even before prominent elements of the Trump administration’s proposed policy changes are enacted, fearful that participating could threaten their citizenship eligibility or put them at risk for deportation.”
While we wait for these proposed rules to be published, tell Congress that poorer immigrants should not be penalized by unrealistic expectations of the wealth they should bring with them to our country. Many Americans have personal stories they can tell of relatives who arrived with nothing but a suitcase, and a few American relatives who helped them get on their feet.
Thank Rep. Jayapal, Smith, and Larsen for signing on to a letter to DHS Secretary Nielsen, speaking out against these proposed changes to the public charge rules.
Sign up for a couple of mailing lists to be informed when you can comment on the proposed rule changes: the National Immigration Law Center (http://bit.ly/PublicChargeRuleSignOn), and the Children’s Alliance in WA state (https://p2a.co/4Zqcwct) both have lists. We must all provide comments on these rules when they are published!
Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign. There are many talking points here you can use to write comments when these rules are published for comment.
“Trump Rule Would Threaten Low-Wage Legal Immigrants in the U.S. If Their Families Receive Any of Wide Array of Benefits, Including the Earned Income Tax Credit.” Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, May 1, 2018.
“Trump “Public Charge” Rule Would Prove Particularly Harsh for Pregnant Women and Children.” Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, May 1, 2018.
“Nearly 20 Million Children Live in Immigrant Families that Could Be Affected by Evolving Immigration Policies.” Samantha Artiga and Anthony Damico, Kaiser Family Foundation, April 18, 2018.
“Spooked by Trump Proposals, Immigrants Abandon Public Nutrition Services.” Emily Baumgaertner, New York Times, March 6, 2018.
Thank you for participating in our week of call-in actions on the treatment of children in our immigration system! This was a significant commitment of time over five days and we truly appreciate your efforts. If we hear of any substantial follow-up on any of these issues, we’ll be sure to communicate it out to all participants.
In wrapping up, here’s a couple of follow-up things you can do:
- Join the WA Immigrant & Refugee Activism Forum on Facebook, where we plan and communicate about actions like this week of call-ins;
- Donate to the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, which works to provide unaccompanied immigrant children with legal representation.