Bennet Introduces Bill to Protect Minor Children Left Behind When Parents Arrested or Detained by U.S. Immigration Officials

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet this week introduced legislation to protect the safety and well-being of minor children who have been left alone and vulnerable after their parents are arrested or detained by U.S. immigration authorities.

“Coloradans have witnessed the stress and trauma that children face when immigration officials detain or deport their parents,” Bennet said. “When we worked as the Gang of Eight to craft comprehensive immigration reform in 2013, this was the only amendment to pass unanimously—and that’s because there is no question we should increase protections for children trapped in the middle of our broken immigration system. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this important legislation.”

The Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act would protect children affected by immigration enforcement actions or proceedings against their parents. Specifically, the bill allows parents to make calls to arrange for the care of their children and ensures that children can call and visit their parents while they are detained. It also allows parents to participate in family court proceedings, ensures parents can coordinate their departures with their children, protects children from serving as  translators for their parents, and requires ICE to consider the best interests of children in detention, release, or transfer decisions affecting their parents.


According to a 2011 study, there are more than five million children in the United States living with at least one unauthorized immigrant parent. The vast majority of these children are U.S. citizens. These children are vulnerable when their parents are the subjects of immigration enforcement, detention, and removal actions. When parents facing detention are not given the opportunity to make arrangements for the care of their children, this not only results in serious, avoidable trauma to children and families, but also unnecessary expenses for the state. Children of detained parents have been needlessly taken into the custody of state or local child welfare agencies. In the most extreme cases, because of their parents’ inability to participate in family court hearings, these children have been adopted or placed into foster care with well-meaning American families. Even when the outcome is not termination of parental rights, enforcement can lead to de facto permanent separation of children from their parents and cause tremendous harm to children, undermining their sense of security and even inflicting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In 2013, during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s markup of the comprehensive immigration reform bill, the previous version of the HELP Separated Children Act was the only amendment—out of nearly 200 amendments—to pass by a unanimous roll call vote.

The bill text is available HERE. A summary of the bill is available HERE.