Washington, D.C. (June 15, 2018) — As the heart-wrenching stories of children separated from their parents come to light, House Republicans have abandoned efforts to pass the Dream Act and instead have introduced a new egregious immigration bill – they claim to be a “compromise – that would actually provide only limited legal protection to DACA-eligible individuals and continue the process of separating children from their parents.
Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders are touting this draconian bill as a solution to family separations. As Vox’s Dara Lind surmised after analyzing the bill, “They’re lying.”
Here is what the bill actually does:
This bill would not end family separation. As long as Trump and Sessions choose to prosecute 100% of parents, their kids will still be taken away from them. There’s no provision in the bill ending family separation due to these prosecutions. When parents are arrested, taken to court, and in some cases sent to federal prison, their kids cannot go with them and so the kids will still be separated.
This bill would allow children to be kept in government detention centers for longer periods of time in jail-like hardened conditions without basic standards for their care or wellbeing. This bill eliminates the minimum standards of custody for children under a settlement agreement (Flores). The government entered into the agreement in 1997 after advocates sued the government for its treatment of children in detention. Flores does not address family separation. Flores does include protections against long-term detention. The bill does not require that families and children be placed together. Many families would remain separated under this bill. (See more on Flores settlement from the Women’s Refugee Commission.)
This bill would makes it easier to deport more children more quickly. In 2000, Congress unanimously passed, and President Bush signed into law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which included a review process for children from countries that don’t border the United States (including Central America) to ensure that they receive safety screenings and aren’t returned to dangerous – and sometimes deadly – situations. This Republican bill eliminates that process and would allow DHS to quickly deport children without fully considering their asylum claims. The changes would speed up the deportation of all children who came by themselves or were taken from their parents at the border – including those coming from some of the most dangerous countries on earth.
The bill shrinks the number of asylum seekers by making it more difficult to apply. This bill heightens the “credible fear” standard and evidentiary burden of proof required for individuals to apply for asylum. By changing the law to facilitate the quick deportations of asylum seekers and make it harder to apply for asylum, parents and children who could articulate a genuine fear of persecution will be deported without the chance to collect evidence or present witnesses before a judge.
The bill eliminates special protections for children. The bill would terminate special protections for children in jail including suitable living conditions, routine medical care and emergency health services, recreation time and counseling services necessary for the wellbeing and healthy development of any child. The bill would also prohibit any government funding for counsel for children- leaving many small children without a voice in the courtroom.
Bottom line: This House Republican bill does NOT end family separations. Congress needs to act responsibly and the Trump Administration needs to end its zero-tolerance policy. There are better alternatives. The psychological and health impact on children cannot be emphasized enough. In fact, the following medical and child welfare experts have expressed opposition to Trump’s policy: Physicians for Human Rights, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians, American Psychological Association, National Association of Social Workers, National Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, American Medical Association, and Child Trauma Research Program.
The Immigration Hub is a national organization, dedicated to providing strategic support to immigrant and refugees organizations and advocating and building a constructive narrative and constituency for progressive immigration policies at the federal and state level. The Hub is comprised of a team of former congressional staff, executive branch officials, and immigration policy advocates with deep roots in legislative advocacy and communications and decades of collective experience.