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California Governor signs landmark legislation addressing “shattered families”

Child Abuse & Neglect
Children of Immigrants

Last night, California Governor Jerry Brown signed two landmark legislation to help detained and deported immigrant parents:

The Reuniting Immigrant Families Act (SB1064, sponsored by Senator Kevin deLeon) prioritizes keeping children with their families and out of the public child welfare system when possible. SB1064 authorize more time for child welfare agencies to find and reunite detained and deported parents with their children or find placement with a relatives, regardless of their immigration status. It requires the California Department of Social Services to provide guidance on filing special immigrant relief options and for working with foreign consulates regarding the custody of children of deported parents.

The Calls for Kids Act (AB2015, sponsored by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell) requires law enforcement officers to ask whether an arrestee is a custodial parent at the time of arrest or booking and to notify custodial parent of their right to make two additional phone calls to arrange for the care of their children (in their native language).

This is an enormous victory — fought hard by a partnership of advocates from child welfare, immigration, and social justice. With the passage of this law, California will be the first state to address the problems facing about 5,100 children of deported immigrants now in the child welfare system as reported by a study by Applied Research Center. Much media was generated from this bill including an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, an editorial from the Los Angeles Times, articles written in Colorlines, the Associated Press, Fox News Latino, NPR, and Univision. Both Santa Clara and San Francisco board of supervisors supported the bill. Working with the First Focus Campaign for Children, children’s advocates from the National Association of Social Workers — California Chapter, Children’s Defense Fund, Public Counsel, and many others joined forces with leading immigration organizations including CHIRLA, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, MALDEF, California Immigrant Policy Center, Friends Committee, and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

But our work is not done. Hundreds of bills become law every year — but a bill is only as good as its implementation. The next step is for all of us — advocates, policymakers, the media — to ensure that all components of this bill is fully implemented in a timely and appropriate manner.