WASHINGTON, June 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Humane Association, a national leader in child welfare policy and research, contributed its expertise in immigration and child welfare issues to the development of the Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) Separated Children Act, introduced in Congress June 22 by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). American Humane endorses the legislation, which focuses on protecting children impacted by immigration enforcement actions and detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
American Humane supported the crafting of this significant legislation by providing knowledge and language on the specific issues that make children of immigrant families vulnerable in these circumstances. "In the course of immigration raids, children can become the unintended and innocent victims of inhumane law enforcement," said Sonia Velazquez, American Humane vice president of child welfare and co-founder (in 2006) of the Migration and Child Welfare National Network. "The national policies the U.S. government enacts or enforces must commit to the safety of all vulnerable children."
The HELP Separated Children Act is supported by more than 150 organizations across the country and is informed by the experiences of child welfare agencies over the past few years. It requires that apprehended parents, legal guardians and primary caregivers who cannot be released remain in the area in which they were apprehended until care arrangements have been made for their children. It also promotes family reunification at the time the immigration case for the parent or caregiver concludes by ensuring that detained parents can communicate with their children, the child welfare system and family courts. As part of enforcement actions, it directs the Department of Homeland Security to better coordinate its efforts with the local child welfare system, the schools and those who can protect the children whose parents are in detention.
"Without legislation of this kind, the law enforcement actions ignore the tremendous impact on children and are not mandated to shield them," Velazquez said. "Beyond the immediate safety issue, children suffer trauma and their mental health is impacted when they have to go into hiding, suffer stigma, or lose connection with all the people they know. We are aware that time is limited for action on the HELP Separated Children Act this year, but Congress must ensure that any policy moving forward will safeguard the well-being of children, regardless of their parents' legal status."
American Humane believes that steps to keep parents connected with their children during and after immigration enforcement must be supported by all, regardless of where anyone stands in the immigration debate. The consequences of family separation include loss of identity, extended family connections, and increasing the vulnerability of children as possible prey of trafficking and exploitation.
The work of American Humane and its partners on immigration and child welfare spans issues of research, policy, emerging practices and transnational collaboration. For more information, visit www.americanhumane.org/migration.
About American Humane
Founded in 1877, the Denver-based American Humane Association is the only national organization dedicated to protecting both children and animals from abuse and neglect through public policy, education and services reaching a wide network of organizations and advocates. Programs include raising awareness about The Link® between violence to people and violence to animals, as well as the benefits derived from the human-animal bond. The organization is also known for "No Animals Were Harmed,"® the end-credit disclaimer seen on film and TV productions. American Humane® Certified is the nation's largest and most regarded independent standards and certification program for farm animal welfare. American Humane earned the Independent Charities of America's "Best in America" Seal of Approval and is an American Institute of Philanthropy "Top-Rated Charity." Learn more at www.americanhumane.org.
SOURCE American Humane Association