In a July 17, 2018 press conference, Senator Kamala Harris, with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), introduced a comprehensive bill to reunite immigrant families ripped apart by the administration’s disastrous policies. Senator Harris’s press release reports that the Reunite Every Unaccompanied Newborn Infant, Toddler and Other Children Expeditiously (REUNITE) Act:
- Requires the DHS and HHS Secretaries to publish guidance describing how they will reunify families. This guidance must include how to ensure sustained, no-cost contact between parents and children, access to children by legal counsel and other advocates, and unannounced inspections by child welfare organizations.
- Requires immediate reunification of children who remain separated from a parent and legal guardian.
- Creates presumption of release on recognizance, parole, or bond for parents of separated children.
- Restores the Family Case Management Program.
- Creates presumption that parents will not be deported until their child’s immigration proceeding is over or the child turns 18.
- Prohibits DHS from using information, including DNA information, obtained pursuant to this Act for immigration enforcement purposes.
- Creates privacy protections around the use of DNA testing to establish familial relationships.
- Requires the Attorney General, the DHS Secretary, and the HHS Secretary to establish the Office for Locating and Reuniting Children with Parents, an interagency office, to expedite and facilitate the reunification of children and parents separated after enter the U.S.
- Redirects $50 million in appropriations from ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) for the enforcement of this Act.
The last point is particularly important in light of Slate’s recent shocking disclosure of internal documents from the Office of Refugee Resettlement showing that
HHS plans to pay for child separation by reallocating money from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which, according to its website, ‘provides a comprehensive system of care that includes primary medical care and essential support services for people living with HIV who are uninsured or underinsured.’ Per the documents, the process of transferring those HIV/AIDS funds has already begun.
Key points at the press conference included Senator Harris’s insistence that family reunification is not enough if it means family incarceration, as is apparently the administration’s desire. Sen. Cortez Masto pointed out that in other situations, non-detention case supervision and management programs have superlative proven track records. Both Senators Harris and Cortez Masto, career prosecutors before their elections, stated that the detention centers – which they had visited – were identical to jails and in no way places for families or children. Moreover, Sen. Cortez Masto pointed out, they are staffed by contractors, not employees of the government who (at least theoretically) have a mission to take care of and reunite families.
Watch video of the press conference here.
What you can do:
- Thank Senator Harris for introducing the REUNITE Act. (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
- Tell Senator Feinstein to support the REUNITE Act. (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
- Spread the word! Promote the REUNITE Act on social media; tell your friends and family to contact their Senators.
- Some things you can say:
- Almost 2,600 children remain separated from their parents. I stand with @SenKamalaHarris – Congress must pass the REUNITE Act & safely reunite these children with their parents and guardians. #FamiliesBelongTogether
- The US Government has committed a human rights abuse by separating children from their parents. I support @SenKamalaHarris’ REUNITE Act because every child needs their parent or guardian. #FamiliesBelongTogether
- Family detention is not a solution to family separation which is why I support @SenKamalaHarris REUNITE Act to reunite families as soon as possible and not lock them in cages. #Familiesbelongtogether
- Read what Senator Harris has to say on Twitter and Facebook and retweet/like and share
Some other things you can do:
- Volunteer with or donate to Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC).
- This great coalition of groups is raising bond funds to get detainees released before they’re moved from the West County Detention Facility to other locations far from their families and immigration lawyers.
- This local fundraiser by El Cerrito Progressives seeks to raise $5,000 to get at least one detainee out of WCDF. Donations will go directly to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund, and will be managed by Freedom for Immigrants.
Read our latest article on actions you can take to fight the administration’s war against immigrants. For more background on the family separation issue, please see our other earlier articles here and here.