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Jayapal Introduces Legislation Protect Immigrant Children

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ranking Member of the Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement Subcommittee, is today introducing legislation to ensure transparency, protection, and accountability for all immigrant children in any type of government custody. The Protection of Kids in Detention (PROKID) Act would create an independent oversight body to monitor the care of all children in the immigration system. 

“The U.S. government has both a legal and moral obligation to protect children in its custody, it’s that simple,” said Jayapal. “In recent years, we’ve seen horrific instances of family separation and even deaths of children in custody. This is completely unacceptable. In light of new regulations by the Department of Health and Human Services, it is clear that we need further accountability and oversight to protect immigrant children and ensure that not only are standards of care set but that they are enforced.”

The PROKID Act would create a permanent Office of the Ombudsperson within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to act as an advocate, subject-matter expert, and independent authority responsible for ensuring that the rights afforded to children under relevant statutes are properly applied and enforced. Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Ensure that immigrant children are held in the least restrictive setting while in immigration custody; 
  • Empower the Ombudsperson to advocate for the quick, safe, and efficient release of immigrant children from immigration custody whenever possible, including the right to review placement decisions; 
  • Create an expert advisory committee of immigration law and child protection specialists to report on trends from the field and advise on best practices; and 
  • Mandate the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ombudsperson and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to facilitate a close working relationship and ensure visibility, real-time communication, and influence policy and procedures for those children in temporary DHS custody. 

Jayapal has introduced multiple other bills to protect immigrants, including her Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act which would end the inhumane conditions of detention centers and protect the civil and human rights of immigrants. She has also on multiple occasions called for greater transparency and oversight at immigrant detention centers. 

The legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Becca Balint (VT-AL), Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Dan Goldman (NY-10), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Jonathan L. Jackson (IL-01), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Zoe Lofgren (CA-18), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Jerrold Nadler (NY-12), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Delia C. Ramirez (IL-03), and Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05).

It is also endorsed by the Acacia Center for Justice, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Church World Service, Futures Without Violence, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, National Center for Youth Law, National Education Association, National Immigrant Justice Center, Prevention Institute, Save the Children, Witness At The Border, Women’s Refugee Commission, and Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.