National Consumers League

New legislation seeks to HELP protect immigrant kids' interests


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By Elizabeth Gardner, NCL public policy intern Elizabeth Gardner, an intern assisting NCL’s coordination of the Child Labor Coalition, is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland studying rhetoric. She says she spent most of the past semester shuffling through papers and articles about the child labor movement in the early 1900s. “So much was going on at that time—the National Child Labor Committee was formed, reformers were pushing through legislation to curb child labor, and the NCL’s first general secretary Florence Kelley was at the forefront of the fight. We’ve made great strides on child labor, but there’s still much to be done. I’m excited to be working with the NCL on child labor policy and advocacy this summer,” said Elizabeth. Immigration is a contentious topic—always has been…likely always will be. A few recent immigration raids have highlighted another side to this issue, though: the children. When parents get arrested, detained, and deported, children are often caught up in the mess. After a Minnesota case in 2006, a 2nd grader was responsible for looking after his little brother for a week after coming home to find both his parents missing—both having been taken away by authorities. Currently, there is no legislation in place to protect immigrant children, many of whom are U.S. citizens. The Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) Separated Children Act (H.R. 3531), which Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) has introduced, looks to ensure that these children are properly cared for, and the National Consumers League has just recently signed on in support of this legislation. HELP provides some straightforward guidelines that will help protect children. It makes sure that after parents are arrested they can make arrangements for their kids to be taken care of. It ensures that children aren’t forced to translate and/or aren’t present to witness their parents’ interrogation. It requires officials to keep state and local authorities in the loop. And it allows parents to continue to have a say in the care of their children. The enforcement of immigration laws is still clearly important. Passing HELP will just ensure that, where relevant, immigration policy on the matter is geared toward representing the best interests of the children involved.