A group of bipartisan legislators in the House will introduce a measure today (October 2) that aims to prevent officials with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from arresting immigrants of undocumented status who step forward to sponsor immigrant children in federal custody, according to CNN.
The bill, the "Prevent CHILD Harm Act of 2018," would prevent DHS from using information provided by an unaccompanied migrant child or the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the purpose of "apprehending, detaining or removing from the United States…the proposed custodian or current custodian" of the child.
The measure, to be introduced by Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), would also keep government officials from using an immigrant’s undocumented status as a reason to deny an application for sponsorship. The measure, according to CNN, has support from dozens of Democrats and Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.).
The legislation comes in the wake of reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials arrested dozens of potential sponsors of immigrant children between July and September. About 70 percent of these sponsors were arrested on immigration violations, an ICE official told CNN.
Upon news of the arrests two weeks ago, Wasserman Schultz criticized the Trump administration for its "shameful use" of an overwhelmed child welfare system.
"This is simply unacceptable," she said in a statement. "Actively arresting potential child sponsors for children held in federal custody does not make our country safer. Instead it ensures that hundreds if not thousands of children who are fleeing dangerous circumstances will languish for longer periods in overly-crowded detention facilities."
Wassermann Schultz said that, after visiting a child detention facility in South Florida this summer, she was told by immigration officials that potential sponsors were not asked about their immigration status.
"The Trump administration’s shameful use of an overwhelmed immigrant child welfare system as a tool for mass deportation is beyond heartless," she said.
According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a division of HHS tasked with detaining children as it seeks to place them with parents or sponsors, there are more than 13,000 immigrant children in federal custody.