LINCOLN, Neb. The following statement may be attributed to ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller:
Governor Heineman’s recent letter to federal officials about tracking children who are fleeing violence and abuse in their home countries shows both a lack of understanding about how the law governing the treatment of these children must be applied, as well as a blatant disregard of what these children have gone through. We are talking about children, often under the age of thirteen, who are properly being located with adult family members or sponsors who will care for them.
Tracking young children who are fleeing violence is not only unnecessary, it also raises serious privacy concerns by inviting the state to begin tracking the whereabouts of people in our state. The names of children who are seeking asylum should never be released because it could endanger them in the US – or in the very likely event that they are eventually deported back to the country where they fear persecution.
The reality is that these children have all been apprehended by Border Patrol and issued a Notice to Appear before an immigration judge. They are not wards of the state – these children have been placed in the custody of family members or sponsors, pending review of their cases. None are granted any sort of permit to stay at this time.
These children must be afforded due process – a chance to have the merits of their case considered and avoid deportation to places where they are not safe. They must be advised by attorneys capable of guiding them through our complex immigration system, and they must, above all, be treated like children who have particular physical and emotional needs.
Because state law already prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to aid the 200 children in Nebraska, we applaud the many faith and community groups that are upholding Nebraska’s values of compassion and generosity by extending their help to these children in their time of need. We only wish our Governor would do the same.