NORWALK – Legislation that would require additional oversight and mandates of children’s immigration detention facilities located in California was introduced Monday by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who represents portions of Norwalk in the State Assembly.
At least three facilities exist in California. Nationally, 4,000 children have been taken from their families and the federal government has lost track of an additional 6,000 or more children.
AB 163 is a reintroduction of language amended into AB 1663 (Garcia) in 2018.
“We are only given one childhood,” said Garcia. “California must demand standards of decency for children and families where the Trump Administration has beyond failed. None of us want to fathom the emotional, life-long trauma we know this practice has caused. California must intervene on behalf of children’s rights.”
Recent immigration enforcement policies have highlighted the need for adequate resources in detention facilities for undocumented minors who have been separated from their families, as well those undocumented minors that arrive in the United States unaccompanied, Garcia said.
In light of the incidents where children have died or been abused while under the care ICE or U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “it’s apparent our current systems are not designed to safely detain children,” Garcia added.
However, because they are minors, California has unique avenue to ensure these kids get the resources they need through its facility licensing oversight. Current law already provides for the licensure and regulation of the facilities housing undocumented minors, through the California Community Care Facilities Act.
The bill would leverage existing state licensing authority and encourage other states to join California’s efforts to create similar immigration detention facility standards for children.
Data collection standards will be set, mental health counseling will be required and quarterly facility inspections would be scheduled. California would further work to reunite children with their families and identify legal services to assist families with the immigration process.
The legislation would apply to both children who have already been or will be separated and unaccompanied minors.
“All of these children endure multiple traumatic experiences over the course of their journey,” said Garcia. “They are vulnerable, they need to be protected and their legal rights, ensured.
The three known facilities licensed in California include Casa San Diego, Casa Lemon Grove and Casa El Cajon operated by Southwest Key Enterprises.