Children seeking safety in the United States must be treated with care and dignity when they arrive here. These are children and families often fleeing severe violence and suffering, and we must never return to the horrible policies of the Trump Administration when children were forcibly separated from their parents at the border. To protect immigrant children who are placed in custody when they arrive, we support new legislation introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called the Protection of Kids in Detention (PROKID) Act.
This legislation, which is also cosponsored by Senators Durbin (D-IL), Merkley (D-OR), Warren (D-MA), Blumenthal (D-CT), Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Booker (D-NJ), would improve transparency, protection, and government accountability for all immigrant children in custody. The PROKID Act would create a permanent Office of the Ombudsperson within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responsible for ensuring that the rights afforded to children by the Flores Settlement Agreement, the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), and other relevant statutes and standards are properly enforced.
Specifically, the PROKID Act would:
- Ensure that immigrant children are only held in government custody in the least restrictive setting;
- Empower the Ombudsperson to advocate for the quick, safe, and efficient release of immigrant children from government custody whenever possible, including the right to review placement decisions;
- Create an expert advisory committee made of up immigration law and child protection specialists to report on trends from the field and advise on best practices;
- Mandate the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Homeland Security to facilitate a close working relationship and ensure visibility, allow for real-time communication, and influence policy and procedures for those children in temporary DHS custody.