Asm. Robert Rivas Introduces Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Protections Act

Friday, February 19, 2021

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) announced today legislation that will ensure immigrant children are protected while in foster care. Assembly Bill 1140, the Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Protections Act, will make explicit the State’s role in exercising oversight of the treatment and care of children in state-licensed Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) facilities, and it would clarify the Ombudsperson’s jurisdiction and responsibility on oversight of children held in state-licensed ORR facilities.

“Thousands of unaccompanied children cross our border fleeing poverty and violence, and many of them are temporarily taken into federal custody in state-licensed childcare facilities,” Asm. Rivas said. “California’s foster care system lacks explicit protections for unaccompanied immigrant children, which leaves them particularly vulnerable. AB 1140 addresses this vulnerability and guarantees that this group of children will not be overlooked and underserved by the State during a time of desperate need.”

Unaccompanied children often do not have the ability to exercise their rights and ensure their safety and well-being in these facilities because they lack access to resources and advocates with the training and authority to assist them.

“Assemblymember Rivas’ bill will ensure that children who come alone to the United States fleeing violence, abuse, and other grave harm will be treated as vulnerable children in need of care, regardless of where they were born or their immigration status,” said Cindy Liou, State Policy Director, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). “California is a leader in the protection of children. This bill will ensure that the state’s vision will encompass all children in its facilities and set a national example.”

AB 1140 is sponsored by KIND, Youth Law Center, Legal Services for Children, National Center for Youth Law, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Immigrant Defense Advocates and the Vera Institute of Justice.

“California is a national leader in safeguarding the rights of children in federal immigration custody who are held in state-licensed foster facilities and programs,” Shaina Aber, Deputy Director, Center on Immigration and Justice, Vera Institute of Justice. “The importance of the state’s role in enforcing licensing standards for children subjected to federal immigration custody while awaiting community-based sponsors, was never more apparent than over the past four years. Vera welcomes Assemblymember Rivas’ introduction of a bill that will clarify the continuity of California’s oversight practices and ensure that all children in California-licensed facilities are treated in accordance with child welfare, health and safety standards, regardless of immigration or custodial status.”