November 14, 2018

Wyden, Harris Introduce Legislation to Improve Resettlement Process for Unaccompanied Children, Protect Sponsors

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Kamala D. Harris today introduced legislation that would provide for the safety and welfare of unaccompanied children. 

The Families Not Facilities Act would prohibit U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from using information gathered in resettling unaccompanied immigrant children to take civil enforcement actions against individuals in the homes of prospective sponsors, while shifting ICE enforcement funds to the needs of at-risk children.

“Children do not belong in cages. They do not belong in tent cities. They should not be indefinitely held,” Wyden said. “The administration should stop inciting fear and start doing everything within its power to ensure the well-being of these kids, placing them with families where they can feel safe and have the care they need. To do otherwise is an affront to our basic humanitarian values as Americans.”

“Right now, unaccompanied children are being held in detention facilities or living in tent cities due in part to potential sponsors’ fear of retribution from ICE for coming forward. This is an unacceptable obstacle to getting these children into a safe home, and we must fix it,” Harris said. “We will ultimately be judged as a society by how we treat our children, and without these crucial protections we are depriving unaccompanied minors of a place they can begin to call home.”

The Families Not Facilities Act would:

  • Prohibit the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from using U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) information provided by an unaccompanied child, or initially obtained to evaluate sponsorship of an unaccompanied child, to conduct civil immigration enforcement actions against a child, prospective or current custodian or sponsor, or resident in the home of the prospective or current custodian or sponsor.
  • Transfer a portion of ICE FY2019 Enforcement and Removal Funding to the new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) programs intended to provide unaccompanied children with comprehensive social work services and connect them with legal representation. It also transfers funds to the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Program and the HHS Task Force to Prevent and End Human Trafficking.
  • Create an ORR Advisory Committee on Shelters comprised of nonprofit immigration and child welfare experts and require the committee to publish reports on their findings.

In addition to Senators Wyden (D-OR) and Harris (D-CA), co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).