Latest News
Press Releases

'Children's Safe Welcome Act' prioritizes family integrity & well-being of children in immigration custody
Bill radically reimagines the process for children arriving at our borders seeking protection

Close up of smiling child with dimples in his cheeks

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 13, 2022

Contact: Willis Jacobson, Media Relations Manager, wjacobson@youthlaw.org

WASHINGTON — Too often, and for far too long, immigrant children arriving at the U.S. border seeking refuge have been subjected to a dehumanizing immigration system that undermines their health and safety. Even today, children continue to be separated from family members and detained in unregulated facilities. It’s long past time to put a stop to this government-sanctioned mistreatment of children in federal immigration custody.

The Children’s Safe Welcome Act, introduced July 13, 2022, re-envisions how children are treated in government custody by emphasizing family unity and structuring each step of the immigration process around the best interests of children. The bill's co-authors include Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.).

The legislation prioritizes keeping families together, placing children arriving alone in family-like settings, and promoting the prompt release of these children to minimize the time they spend in federal immigration custody. It is supported by leading experts, advocates, and organizations focused on children’s health, safety, and welfare. These include the National Center for Youth Law and the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, both of which provided expert guidance throughout the bill’s development.

As counsel in the Flores Settlement Agreement, which serves as the lone set of standards for children held in federal immigration custody, attorneys with the National Center for Youth Law have direct access to children in immigration custody. Neha Desai, an attorney and senior director of immigration at the National Center for Youth Law, has visited numerous facilities and has heard from hundreds of youth about the harms they endure on a daily basis.

"This bill finally brings our law into closer alignment with what child development experts have long known — that children belong in the community in family settings, not in government custody," Desai said.  

For nearly two decades, the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights has been fiercely advocating for the best interests of children navigating our country’s immigration system. The Young Center has proposed fundamental reforms to laws and policies impacting immigrant children, to reimagine a system in which children are treated as children first.

“Children thrive when they live with their family. This bill prioritizes family unity and encourages immigrant children’s prompt reunification with family whenever possible. For children who must spend time in government custody, this bill ensures their time there will be brief and that their health and wellbeing will be prioritized,” said Mary Miller Flowers, Senior Policy Analyst at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.

"It's long past time we prioritized the well-being of children and the importance of family integrity  in our federal immigration laws," said Desai, with the National Center for Youth Law. "The protections and oversight built into the Children's Safe Welcome Act represent a dramatic   step toward ensuring children seeking protection at our borders are cared for humanely and swiftly placed with families. That shouldn't be too much to ask."