MDCR Issues Call to Action, Outlines Steps Necessary to Protect Human and Civil Rights of Immigrant Children in Michigan

Contact: Vicki Levengood - levengoodv@michigan.gov 517-241-7978
Agency: Civil Rights

June 22, 2018

Lansing, MI--On Tuesday, June 19, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights issued a statement on its duty to ensure the civil rights of children brought here after being separated from their parents at the US/Mexico border are protected. (Find the full statement at Michigan.gov/MDCR in “Latest News.”)

“I have spent the better part of this week working to ascertain the whereabouts and well-being of approximately 58 children, ranging in age from under 1 year old to 17 years old, currently housed in Michigan after being separated from their families at the US/Mexico border,” said Agustin Arbulu, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “While I have every reason to believe these children are being cared for with integrity and compassion, when the health and well-being of children is at issue, we must have a system in place to confirm and verify their status.”

Today, we are issuing a call to action. The steps outlined below must be implemented as soon as possible to ensure that while these children reside in our state, their human and civil rights under law are being protected.”

  • Immediately re-establish contact between parents and children: Given the potentially devastating negative health impacts of separation from their families, we call for immediately connecting parents and children at the highest level of communication possible – via Skype or other internet-powered visual communication tools, or at a minimum by telephone. This communication link must be established immediately and continue for as long as the children are being held away from their families.
  • Determine each child’s current health status: We call on Michigan facilities where immigrant children are being housed to continue to monitor and report on the health and well-being of the children under their care. This health monitoring must include a thorough evaluation of the emotional and developmental well-being of each child and a proactive plan for providing physical and emotional health services to those children suffering from illness and/or emotional trauma resulting from the separation We must also ensure that any children with disabilities are being cared for appropriately.
  • Provide all children with access to effective communication: We call for an immediate assessment of the communications needs of each child, and a plan for meeting those needs. We have heard reports that some children taken from parents speak languages other than Spanish or English, and we know that at least one child who has been brought to Michigan is deaf. We must ensure that these children are able to communicate their needs efficiently and effectively.
  • Unite parents and children: We call for the quickest possible action to unite children with parents or other family members, while giving priority to the child’s safety and consideration to any potential risk to the child. Parents and legal guardians, whatever their legal status, must be given the opportunity to have a voice in all decisions regarding the future disposition of their children.

“We are one small state agency with limited ability to affect federal-level decision making and policy,” said Arbulu. “But the actions we’ve outlined today, if taken, are steps in the direction of ensuring that the rights of these children will be protected while they reside on Michigan soil.”

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