Wyden, Merkley Co-sponsor Bill to Protect Children Left Alone When Parents Arrested or Detained By Immigration Officials

Washington, D.C. –Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said today they are co-sponsoring legislation that would protect the safety and well-being of minor children left alone and vulnerable after their parents have been arrested or detained by U.S. immigration authorities.

“Innocent children shouldn’t face a sudden and mysterious sense of abandonment when their mothers and fathers are swept up by immigration officials in communities across the United States,” Wyden said.“This bill would restore humane protections for these young people so they can be contacted by their parents and have care provided for them. In addition, the Trump administration must end its cruel new policy of separating children from their parents at the border to deter people from seeking safety in the United States, which is only causing more trauma for even more children.”

“The Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policies are hurting children,” Merkley said. “That is beyond unacceptable. This bill would put in place critical protections to ensure that children’s contact with their parents is never cut off, and to treat children with a bare minimum standard of fairness and compassion throughout our immigration system.”

The HELP Separated Children Act’s protections for these children include: 

  • Allowing parents to make calls to arrange for the care of their children and ensuring that children can call and visit their parents while they are detained;
  • Allowing parents to participate in family court proceedings affecting their children;
  • Protecting children from being compelled to serve as translators for their parents in immigration enforcement actions;
  • Ensuring that parents can coordinate their departures with their children, including allowing parents to say goodbye to their children prior to being taken into custody; and
  • Requiring ICE to consider the best interests of children in detention, release, and transfer decisions affecting their parents.

The Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act was introduced by Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN).

Cosponsors along with Wyden and Merkley include Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

A section-by-section summary of bill is here.

Text of the legislation is here.