February 13, 2013: On Sunday, U.S. Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA 37th District) (left) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA 40th District) (below) wrote an OP-ED piece for the LA Times weighing in on the Help Separated Families Act. If passed, the act "would make it far more difficult to terminate parental rights solely because of immigration status, and it would also allow foster children to be placed in the best homes for them, regardless of the immigration status of a potential guardian."
According to the representatives, the Applied Research Center's report "Shattered Families,"
at least 5,000 children of immigrants live in U.S. foster care because their parents were detained or deported.
In the wake of immigration arrests, law enforcers often don't allow detained immigrant parents the opportunity to make proper arrangements for the care of their children. Kids can come home from school, only to find their mothers and fathers gone.
When a child enters the foster-care system, detained parents often have little input into plans for their children's care, since the hearings and proceedings that determine those arrangements tend to take place far from the detention centers where immigrants are held. Once parents have been taken into custody or deported, caseworkers report, it is difficult for children to maintain contact with them.
All of these factors increase the chances that parental rights may be inappropriately terminated in cases where parents are involved in immigration proceedings, resulting in permanent family separation.
This legislation won't end all of the suffering that our broken immigration system causes children and families, but it's a good start. For too long, the youngest and most vulnerable voices in our immigration debate have been ignored.
We live in a country defined both by its proud immigrant heritage and by its enduring commitment to families. Ultimately, immigration reform will not be successful unless it protects children, prevents families from being torn apart and shows the world America means what it says when it speaks out on the importance of respecting human rights.
Written by Taylor McCulloch.