WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey)has introduced legislation that would keep immigrant children with family members when their parents face deportation."I introduced this legislation when I discovered the alarming number of children placed in foster care and separated from their families when their parents are detained or deported," said Roybal-Allard. "We can no longer ignore the human cost of our broken immigration system." The Help Separated Families Act, H.R. 6128, prohibits federally-funded child welfare agencies from relying solely on immigration status in child placement determinations, and clarifies that certain forms of foreign identification are sufficient for purposes of a prospective caregiver's background check. The legislation also requires that questions about the caregiver's immigration status are limited to eligibility determinations for relevant services of programs. And unless certain conditions are met, the bill prevents child welfare agencies from filing for termination of parental rights in cases where immigration enforcement is the main reason for a child's removal from the parent's custody. "As a mother, I know the anxiety behind being separated from a child for even a short period of time," Roybal-Allard said. "People, regardless of their immigration status, deserve to know that their children are cared for, and when possible, children should be able to remain under the care of a family relative instead of becoming a ward of the state." Roybal-Allard said the issue came to her attention when she, along with other Democratic members of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, requested the release of an ICE report regarding the annual deportation of parents of U.S. citizen children. During the first half of last year, more than 46,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were deported from the U.S., the congresswoman's office said. In the wake of their parents' removal, "a growing number" of children have been placed in foster care "and left to languish, or worse, yet, have been separated permanently from their families when their parents' rights are terminated," Roybal-Allard said. An estimated 5,000 children in at least 22 states are currently living in foster care as a result of immigration enforcement policies, Roybal-Allard's office said.
********** Published: July 19, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 14