Contact: Patrick Bresette, Executive Director (512) 925-8125
AUSTIN, August 30, 2021 — Seventy organizations from Texas and around the country have urged Governor Greg Abbott to withdraw a proclamation that endangers the health and well-being of thousands of immigrant children.
Abbott’s order, which takes effect tomorrow, would revoke the licenses of shelters that serve unaccompanied children, effectively removing them from the state’s oversight. Texas accounts for roughly half of all licensed beds available for unaccompanied children in government custody, about 7,400 beds total.
Child-welfare groups, resettlement agencies, the faith community and other organizations — including 24 from Texas — said in a letter to the Governor that the May 31 proclamation could disrupt children’s care by state-licensed Texas providers, put children at risk of harm, and deny them the safety and support that every child — in Texas and elsewhere — should have. Find full text of the letter here.
“It is important that the impact of this order on children be front and center,“ said Miriam Abaya, First Focus on Children Senior Director for Immigration and Children’s Rights. “It is our moral duty to care for unaccompanied children as we would any child experiencing separation from family: In small, state-licensed settings with access to trained clinicians, social workers, and case managers until they can be safely reunited with family.”
“We all know that protecting children and the people who care for them is a deeply held value in Texas and the nation. The Governor’s order goes against those values,” said Patrick Bresette, Executive Director of the Texas office of the Children’s Defense Fund. “Instead of doing more to help address the trauma that these children have experienced, his order undermines the very systems that we have put in place to care for them. Harm to children should never be tolerated. All children, regardless of their immigration status, deserve our care and protection.”
“Revoking state licensure of residential facilities for unaccompanied children puts their health and safety at risk,” said Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “These children arrive at our border having experienced unspeakable trauma in their home countries and on their journey to the United States, and had no choice but to flee to safety. Immigrant children are simply children, and they deserve to be cared for at facilities able to meet their physical and mental health needs.”
“All children deserve to be treated with dignity, kindness and respect,” said Seth D. Kaplan, MD, FAAP, President of the Texas Pediatric Society, the Texas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “For those who have already suffered great trauma as unaccompanied children, trauma-informed care is the most effective way to meet their medical, emotional, and cultural needs. State licensure of residential facilities for unaccompanied children is critically important to ensuring their safety and well-being.”
In addition to ending current state licenses for residential providers who care for unaccompanied children, Gov. Abbott’s proclamation also would deny future licenses to providers who seek to care for unaccompanied children.
The 70 organizations signed onto the letter believe that every child should be cared for in a way that preserves their health, safety, and dignity — no matter who they are or where they come from. The organizations are speaking out now against the Texas proclamation and will continue to speak up any time lawmakers promote policies that threaten to harm children.
An April poll found that the majority of Americans agreed that the federal government’s highest immigration priority should be to provide safe treatment for unaccompanied children at the border. The American people also agree that every policy should be governed by a “best interest of the child” standard.