‘Shattered Families’ Need Our Voices
This post was contributed by Mark Maginn, member of the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church Immigrant Task Force.
The members of the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church Immigrant Task Force Shattered Families Subcommittee came together, inspired to do something after digesting the Shattered Families Report produced by the Applied Research Center. The report finds that, in the first six months of 2011 alone, the federal government deported more than 46,000 mothers and fathers of U.S.-citizen children, often sending these children into the U.S. foster care system. It also details how our federal immigration policies contribute to and exacerbate the situation. This devastating research report motivated us to stand with our migrant brothers and sister and, as a result, we arranged to meet with Congressman John Garamendi’s District Director, Karen Tedford, to relate our concerns.
Everyone on the committee spoke about different aspects of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policies that shatter migrant families. Additionally, we talked about the HELP Separated Children Act, H.R. 2607. This bill will essentially stop the practices of tearing children away from their parents. The bill mandates safeguards in the process of detaining undocumented workers by providing caseworkers to interview the detainees to determine if they are parents or caregivers and requiring phone calls between parents and children and parents and child welfare agencies. It also requires training for ICE officers to ensure that the new guidelines will be followed. We were able to supply Karen with the text of the HELP Separated Children Act and other material and we also plan on sending her a copy of the video “Lost in Detention.” She even agreed to contact ICE and try to arrange a representative of the organization, and possibly someone from the Immigration Service, to meet with us.
According to Karen, this bill will die at the end of December if concerted action is not organized to promote it. So far the bill has died twice in Congress and is currently stuck in committee. This legislation is much needed if we are a nation that values families and children.
So what can you do? Contact your own representatives and ask your friends and family to contact them too. You can send a message to your Members of Congress through Standing on the Side of Love’s online form or even arrange an in-person meeting like we did.
Moving forward, we plan to continue our advocacy on the issue of shattered families. We are in the midst of arranging meetings with Rep. George Miller and Sen. Diane Feinstein’s offices in the coming weeks. We are determined to stand with our brothers and sisters for human rights and social justice and hope you are too.
Looking for more information? Check out the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s new Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit for suggestions on how to organize immigration advocacy meetings.