Proposed Immigration Law could stop the Separation of Families

Encarnacion Bail Romero, a native of Guatemala, was apprehended in a federal immigration raid in 2007 and torn from her then-seven-month son.

Romero had her parental rights terminated while in federal custody after a judge ruled “illegally smuggling herself into the country is not a lifestyle that can provide any stability for the child.”

She has not seen her son in five years.

U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) relayed this mother’s story on the House floor last Thursday as an illustration of why there needs to be an immigration law to protect families who fall through the cracks in the country’s lack of comprehensive immigration reform.

“What this case and so many more like it tells us is that, in the U.S., immigration status in itself has become grounds to permanently separate families,” Roybal-Allard said. “This is absolutely, unquestionably inhumane and unacceptable — particularly for a country that values family and fairness so highly.”

Saying the child welfare system is “biased against undocumented caregivers,” Congresswoman Roybal-Allard introduced the “Help Separated Families Act” last week seeking to prohibit immigration status from disqualifying a parent, legal guardian, or relative from placement consideration.

“People, regardless of their immigration status, deserve to know that their children are cared for, and when possible, children should be able to remain under the care of a family relative instead of becoming a ward of the state,” she said.

Last year, two bills were introduced hoping to facilitate the process for family unification for parents who are undergoing deportation proceedings by requiring cooperation from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Considering the climate in Congress, immigration legislation continues at a standstill.

The Congresswoman’s staff told VOXXI Monday that the bill was formally introduced on Friday and that Roybal-Allard will be reaching out to members this week to gain support.

Yakelin Navidad, her son Nelson Jose, 4, husband Nelson and daughter Gabriela, 14 at a 2009 immigration reform rally to end workplace raids. (Photo by Shuttershock)

The bill would prohibit states from petitioning to terminate parental rights based on the deportation or detention of a parent if other conditions are met. The Congresswoman added that this would protect the legal rights of parents and prevent child welfare agencies from permanently separating children from their parents based on nothing other than immigration status.

More than 46,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were deported from the United States during the first six months of 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It is estimated that over 5,000 children in at least 22 states are currently living in foster care as a result of those immigration enforcement policies.

Roybal-Allard said she felt moved by the large number and it motivated her to move the legislation forward. Several other members of Congress have also denounced the administration’s deportation policies and could be supportive of her bill. In March, Congressional Hispanic Caucus members called the deportation rate of parents “completely unacceptable.”

Emily Butera, senior program officer at the detention and asylum program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, said oftentimes parents who are put in deportation proceedings can’t participate in their child welfare case because the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) won’t allow it.

“We meet a lot of parents that are desperately trying to participate,” Butera told VOXXI, explaining that rarely do they find parents who are not at risk of losing their child.

Butera believes the immigration status of a parent should not be made the sole reason to terminate parental rights. Although there’s been some progress made in terms of the administration’s prosecutorial discretion, implementation still needs to be addressed through the child welfare system because it’s “extremely difficult” for a parent in deportation to reunify with their child.

Sometimes, the parents are detained in a different state, they are allowed very few phone calls and language may also be a barrier.

“It would significantly reduce the unnecessary separation of families by making sure that immigration status does not unfairly impede (the process) in the child welfare system,” Butera told VOXXI, speaking about the bill.

The legislation would also encourage state child welfare agencies to grant waivers for requirements that would prevent a child from being placed with a relative on the basis of a minor legal infraction by the relative. There will also be a state plan requirement that would notify relatives seeking placement of a child that their immigration status will not be questioned.

Statement on Gun Control

Unlike about a dozen other states, Texas law does not ban high capacity magazines, does not place restrictions on gun shows, does not extend background checks to private transfers, does not require weapons be safely stored when possessed or transferred, and does not require waiting periods.

In 2011 there were 2600 gun deaths in the State of Texas and each year since then the number has increased and we are now at over 3200 gun deaths each year in Texas.

Guns are now the number 2 cause of accidental child death in Harris County here in Texas.
In regards to the number of gun owners in each state population, Texas is number 30 with 35.9% of the population owning a gun.

High-capacity magazines should be banned because they too often turn murder into mass murder. A Mother Jones investigation found that high-capacity magazines were used in at least 50% of the 62 mass shootings between 1982 and 2012. When high-capacity magazines were used in mass shootings, the death rate rose 63% and the injury rate rose 156%

Guns are rarely used in self-defense. Of the 29,618,300 violent crimes committed between 2007 and 2011:

1. 0.79% of victims (235,700) protected themselves with a threat of use or use of a firearm, the least-employed protective behavior.

2. Of the 84,495,500 property crimes committed between 2007 and 2011, 0.12% of victims (103,000) protected themselves with a threat of use or use of a firearm.

The US General Accounting Office (GAO) estimated that 100% of deaths per year in which a child under 6 years old shoots and kills him/herself or another child could be prevented by automatic child-proof safety locks.

According to a Pew Survey:

Only 1/3 of gun owners support permitless or “Constitutional” carry laws that allow people to carry concealed firearms in public without a permit. This is something the NRA is lobbying for.

82% of gun owners support banning gun purchases by people on terrorist watch lists.

71% favor creating a federal government database to track all gun sales.

68% favor banning assault-style weapons.

65% favor banning high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Among Americans overall, a majority (52%) would like to see stricter gun laws.

The NRA opposes all of these.

How many senseless acts of violence in our streets or tragedies in our communities will it take to get our nation to stop caving to special interests like the NRA when people are dying? We need to pass real gun control–laws that ban high-magazine weapons, increase licensing standards, and require fingerprinting for handgun purchasers.

Statement on Health Care

Today, we have the most expensive, inefficient, and bureaucratic health care system in the world. We spend almost $10,000 per capita each year on health care, while the Canadians spend $4,644, the Germans $5,551, the French $4,600, and the British $4,192. Meanwhile, our life expectancy is lower than most other industrialized countries and our infant mortality rates are much higher.

Further, as of last September, 28 million Americans were uninsured and millions more under-insured with premiums, deductibles, and co-payments that are too high. We also pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

The ongoing failure of our health care system is directly attributable to the fact that it is largely designed not to provide quality care in a cost-effective way, but to make maximum profits for health insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and medical equipment suppliers. That has got to change. We need to guarantee health care for all. We need to do it in a cost-effective way. We need a Medicare-for-all health care system in the U.S.

Our dysfunctional health care system is not only causing unnecessary suffering and financial stress for millions of poor and middle-class families, it is also having a very negative impact on our economy and the business community—especially small- and medium-sized businesses. Private businesses spent $637 billion on private health insurance in 2015 and are projected to spend $1.059 trillion in 2025.

Why as a nation are we spending more than 17% of our GDP on health care, while nations that we compete with provide health care for all of their people at 9, 10, or 11% of their GDP?

Eliminating the for-profit private insurance system will save at least $600.8 billion per year in administrative costs plus outpatient prescription drug costs, according to Annals of Internal Medicine. Doctor and hospital staff negotiating with health insurance company staffs overcharges, tests, etc.? Gone. With no premiums, there would be new, modest taxes based on one’s ability to pay. And 95 percent of families would save money compared with the current system.

The Commonwealth Fund’s 2014 report on international health system efficiency ranks the United States last of 11 developed nations on measures such as quality of care, access to care, the efficiency of care and equity of care.

Yes, this would most likely mean new taxes but it also means the end of premiums, the end of deductibles, the end of copays, and it means never having to deal with another medical bill again. If you are spending more on taxes, but your premiums go down more than you’re spending in taxes, then you’re benefiting.

One other matter – a single-payer program is not socialism. Doctors, clinics and hospitals are free to practice medicine as they know best. A single-payer approach is simply a better financial way to fund health care in this country.

Statement on Energy

The wind energy industry currently employs over 100,000 full-time-equivalent employees in a variety of capacities, including manufacturing, project development, construction, and turbine installation, operations and maintenance, transportation and logistics, and financial, legal, and consulting services. One of the fastest-growing occupations is a Wind Turbine Technician with a median salary of $51,000.

The State of Texas currently has over 12,000 wind turbines with plenty of room to grow.

Other renewable energy technologies employ even more workers. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy, solar power employed 43 percent of the Electric Power Generation sector’s workforce in 2016, while fossil fuels combined accounted for just 22 percent. This included people on a part-time or full-time basis, including jobs in solar installation, manufacturing, and sales.

Solar energy added 73,615 new jobs to the U.S. economy in 2016 while wind added a further 24,650.

In addition to the jobs directly created in the renewable energy industry, growth in the renewable energy industry creates positive economic “ripple” effects. For example, industries in the renewable energy supply chain will benefit, and unrelated local businesses will benefit from increased household and business incomes.

In addition to creating new jobs, increasing our use of renewable energy offers other important economic development benefits. Wind and solar power are more predictable; the prices don’t fluctuate like oil and gas. So, a municipality can sign a contract today and know what the bill is going to be for the next 25 years.

Local governments collect property and income taxes and other payments from renewable energy project owners. These revenues can help support vital public services, especially in rural communities where projects are often located. Owners of the land on which wind projects are built also often receive lease payments ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 per megawatt of installed capacity, as well as payments for power line easements and road rights-of-way. Or they may earn royalties based on the project’s annual revenues. Similarly, farmers and rural landowners can generate new sources of supplemental income by producing feedstocks for biomass power facilities.

A Union of Concerned Scientists analysis found that a 25% by 2025 national renewable electricity standard would stimulate $263.4 billion in new capital investment for renewable energy technologies, $13.5 billion in new landowner income biomass production and/or wind land lease payments, and $11.5 billion in new property tax revenue for local communities.

Renewable energy projects, therefore, keep money circulating within the local economy, and in most states, renewable electricity production would reduce the need to spend money on importing coal and natural gas from other places. Texas alone spends over 1 billion on net coal import.

In the end, renewable energy is new jobs, lower bills, and a cleaner planet.