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Meng Introduces Legislation to Help Families and Children at the Border

Jul 23, 2019
Press Release
Congresswoman’s bill is the companion to the Senate bill led by Minority Leader Schumer and Senators Merkley, Feinstein, Durbin, and Murray
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced the “Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act” that would ensure migrant families and children who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border are provided with safe, sanitary, and humane services.
The legislation seeks to provide guardrails and set minimum standards of treatment for children and families to ensure government funds are not used to traumatize or harm asylum seekers.
Specifically, the bill would:
  • End family separations except in situations where the child is a trafficking victim, not the child of the accompanying adult, or in danger of abuse or neglect.
  • Set minimum health and safety standards for children and families in Border Patrol Stations; require access to toothbrushes, diapers, soap and showers and other hygiene products; require regular nutritious meals; and ensure a prompt medical assessment by trained medical providers.
  • End for-profit contractors from operating new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) standard shelters or influx facilities. Such shelters or facilities must be state-licensed, meet Flores Settlement Agreement standards, and not used to house children indefinitely.
  • Expand alternatives to detention and the successful Family Case Management Program (FCMP), which was a program that was designed to increase compliance with immigration obligations through a comprehensive case management strategy supported by community organizations.
  • Remove roadblocks to placing unaccompanied children with sponsors by lowering the total number of cases a manager may take, mandating lower staffing ratios, and ending the information sharing agreement between ORR and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • Ensure unaccompanied children have access to legal counsel and continue to be placed in a safe setting for their initial asylum case review.
  • Provide resources to non-profit centers that are helping provide humanitarian assistance.
  • Permit Members of Congress, accompanying staff, and credentialed press (without cameras) to visit any facility with 24-hour notice.
“The Trump administration’s lack of empathy and compassion for migrant families and children at the U.S.-Mexico border is heartbreaking and demands action by Congress,” said Meng. “Those who come to our nation should be treated with dignity and respect and that is something the administration has failed to provide when treating migrant families. We have a crisis at the southern border, and we need to ensure our officials have the resources they need while respecting the dignity of those in the U.S. government’s care. I’m pleased that so many of my colleagues have joined and I hope that my bill will receive consideration soon.”
“CHIRLA, the largest statewide organization in California with national impact, commends Congresswoman Meng's efforts, and supports the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act, which seeks to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of migrant children,” said Isabel J. Sanchez, National Policy Advocate at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA). “It is of extreme importance that we, a nation of immigrants, take care of our most vulnerable at our borders and within our borders. For starters, under no circumstances should families ever be separated; any shelter that houses migrant children must abide by the highest health and safety standards to ensure that children receive the necessary medical attention they need. Children are literally dying well within our borders because of the ongoing neglect provided by untrained officers that are ill equipped to care for minors. Families have endured enough pain, and the least we can do is treat them as humanely as possible. Our government must work towards the expansion of alternatives to detention programs, move away from criminalizing all immigrants, and divest from pro-profit contracts that only exploit our immigrant communities and asylum seekers.”
“The fact that we even need a bill titled “Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act” indicates the sad and morally bankrupt state to which this administration’s immigration policies have sunk,” said Laura M. Esquivel, Director of National Advocacy at the Hispanic Federation. “We must stop the arbitrary and traumatic separation of children from families and caregivers or we risk descending into the kind of barbarism we, as a nation, have long decried. We call on all members of Congress to support passage of this and the Senate companion bill immediately. The abhorrent treatment of migrant children and families legally seeking asylum must stop now.”
“What we've learned over the last several months about the treatment of young children in detention facilities, the conditions of those facilities, and the separation of children from their parents, some as young as 4 months old, is beyond reprehensible,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). “Congress must act swiftly to pass the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act, which would end the horrific policies leading to family separation and put in place a system of accountability and a set of standards to ensure this treatment ends right now and is never repeated.”
“When it comes to public policy that impacts children, a ‘best interest of the child’ standard should apply,” said Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children. “This administration’s policy of separating children from their parents, placing children in detention, and gutting of health, safety, and well-being protections is unacceptable. This is why we are proud to support the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act, which would ensure humane standards of care and safety for migrant children.”
“Every single child harmed by this administration’s failure to protect families fleeing violence and persecution is an indefensible tragedy,” said Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service (CWS). “Americans across the nation are outraged by the administration’s failure to uphold our moral and legal obligations to welcome people seeking safety. As a member of the clergy, my thoughts turn to Matthew 19:14: ‘Jesus said, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’“
Last year, Meng traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration’s family separation crisis.
The Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act is endorsed by the following organizations: Church World Service (CWS); National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA); Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA); National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC); Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center; CASA; OneAmerica; Hispanic Federation; First Focus Campaign for Children; and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).