Want to help refugees and migrants the administration is treating cruelly? Here’s what you can ask Congress to do immediately.
There are excellent lists published over the past few days detailing what people can do to help end the horrific treatment of refugee and migrant children in government custody, particularly Customs and Border Protection (CBP). One thing missing from these lists is specifics of what everyone should urge their members of Congress to do.
Right now Congress is working on funding legislation to provide the government more money to address the Trump Administration’s egregious mismanagement and treatment of refugees and migrants seeking safety. This is called a “supplemental appropriations bill.” The House of Representatives released their version of the bill and the Senate passed their version out of committee. Both houses still need to bring a bill to the floor of their chambers for a vote. Neither the House nor the Senate bill currently has everything needed to properly care for refugee and migrant children, but there is still time to make sure these crucial provisions are included.
When you call your members of Congress here is a list of what you can ask them to do (find your representatives here):
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):
- Provide the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement, which are in charge of care for unaccompanied and separated children, with $3 billion to meet their funding shortfall. This would also replenish the money that the government moved around to deal with the increased unaccompanied and separated children population in their custody. Both the Senate and House include nearly the full amount of money but the Senate doesn’t include replenishment of the essential refugee support services funding.
- Place restrictions on how the Department of Health and Human Services can use the money. They should ensure that:
- No money is used to implement the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/HHS information-sharing agreement that causes children to stay in government shelters for much longer periods of time and prevents their reunification with family members
- Facilities must be state-licensed to meet state law standards for child care facilities and be compliant with the Flores settlement agreement requirements as soon as possible without waivers. The House and Senate must add these provisions to their bills.
- Funding must support critical family reunification services. So far this is not included in either bill.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- Provide funding for local towns and humanitarian organizations serving communities that are welcoming asylum seekers and migrants. This has been included in both bills.
- Prohibit DHS from using money that is provided for humanitarian aid from being used for detention or enforcement. This is included in the House bill but not sufficiently addressed in the Senate bill.
- Set standards of care for children in Customs and Border Protection holding facilities that are in line with recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Do not allow DHS to set the standards. So far this is not included in either bill.
- Require DHS to return all confiscated identity documents, medication, and personal belongings. So far this is not included in either bill.
- Prohibit money to carry out the Migration Protection Protocols (aka the Migration Persecution Protocols/Remain in Mexico). This policy returns asylum seeking refugees to dangerous conditions in Mexico without any protection or assistance while they await their immigration court hearings. So far this is not included in either bill.
- Prohibit use of funds for Customs and Border Protection officials to conduct credible fear screenings, which undermines safeguards to protect refugees who have suffered severe trauma. So far this is not included in either bill.
Department of Justice (DOJ)
- Provide $15 million in additional funds for expansion of the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) including a pilot program for families released from CBP custody. The Legal Orientation Program is a vital program to help asylum-seeking refugees, and immigrants understand their obligations in our complex immigration system. Right now, there’s only enough money to support this program at a quarter of immigration detention facilities and five immigration courts. There is funding included in both bills but they do not include starting the non-detained pilot).
- Do not provide additional funds for transfer to and detention in federal prison. Zero tolerance (aka family separation) is a result of the Trump Administration wrongfully prosecuting parents for entering the U.S. by crossing between ports of entry. Refugees are not supposed to be prosecuted for their manner of entry, especially when CBP prevents them from approaching ports. Unfortunately, both bills include some form of funding.
Department of Defense (DOD)
- Do not allow for the Department of Defense to be involved in immigration enforcement or detention. This is not their job nor should it be; they must be focused on military readiness. The Senate bill includes DOD immigration funding.