HB 2225: oppose removal of state standards for child migrants

Michael Barba

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops is against HB 2225. We oppose this bill because it effectively removes the state’s standards for childcare if the children are migrants.

Background. The licensing requirements maintained by DFPS were established in order to ensure the quality of care for children housed in family residential centers (FRCs).[1]

DFPS first established an emergency version of these rules after a July 2015 federal district court ruling, which held that the detention centers violated a previously established standard agreed to by the federal government.[2]

Under that agreement, children can only be held in detention centers if the center is licensed by state child welfare agencies. DFPS subsequently established standards that the detention centers needed to meet to be licensed.

DFPS noted that the standards pertain to health and safety requirements.[3]

The regulations, DFPS noted, “ensure the continued protection of children housed in the facilities by making the facilities subject to the regulatory authority of the Child-Care Licensing Division along with its associated requirements.”[4]

However, in its final rules, DFPS stated 4 times that their standards do not take into account whether the location is a “detention or secure” facility:

“DFPS explicitly clarifies that it has no role in determining whether the Family Residential Center (FRC) is classified as secure.”[5]

“In both the rule and this adoption preamble, DFPS has stressed repeatedly that whether the FRC is operated as a detention or secure FRC is outside its purview.”[6]

“DFPS has repeatedly emphasized that its role with respect to the two FRCs currently in Texas is to oversee the care of the children who are housed with their mothers or family members there, not to determine whether the facility is secure.”[7]

“The department does not oversee requirements that pertain to other law, including whether the facilities are classified as secure…”[8]

At the same time, DFPS contends that the primary purpose of the licensing requirements is to bring these facilities into compliance with rules pertaining to other childcare facilities.[9]

Under HB 2225, all licensing standards could be waived, and FRCs could operate without meeting any standard which the state has established for other GROs.

Guidance from the Bishops. We recognize the right and responsibility of a nation to protect and regulate its borders, and enforce immigration law. However, the dignity of migrant families should be respected, and each family must be guaranteed due process under the laws of our nation.[10]

We add that due process can be upheld through humane alternatives to detention. In particular, we support allowing the families to live in the community as they are provided necessary services, including legal representation. The Catholic Church already assists in this effort and will continue to do so.

Moreover, in considering family detention, we must ask: why? Why do we feel compelled to place in detention vulnerable individuals—young mothers with children fleeing persecution? In answering this question, we must remember our Texas heritage and the vision of our American founders, who held that the United States should always be “an asylum to the oppressed and the needy of the earth.”[11]

In order to maintain the dignity of families, we oppose this bill because it would allow for the reopening of the family detention centers at Karnes and Dilley.

Catholic Teaching on Immigration. Good government has two duties, both of which must be carried out and neither of which can be ignored.[12]

The first duty is to welcome the foreigner out of charity and respect for the human person. Persons have the right to immigrate and thus government must accommodate this right to the greatest extent possible, especially financially blessed nations. The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

The second duty is to secure one’s border and enforce the law for the sake of the common good. Sovereign nations have the right to enforce their laws and all persons must respect this right. Political authorities, for the sake of the common good, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

[1] 40 TexReg 8009, Proposed Rules, November 13, 2015.
[2] U.S. District Court Central District of California, Flores v. Johnson, July 24, 2015
[3] 40 TexReg 8009, Proposed Rules.
[4] 40 TexReg 8009, Proposed Rules.
[5] 41 TexReg 1493, Adopted Rules, page 2.
[6] 41 TexReg 1493, Adopted Rules, page 6.
[7] 41 TexReg 1493, Adopted Rules, page 8.
[8] 41 TexReg 1493, Adopted Rules, page 10.
[9] “The justification for §748.7 is to define the term ‘family residential center’ (FRC) and to make FRCs subject to regulation as General Residential Operations (GROs). Requiring FRCs to comply with all requirements for GROs will be more protective of children than taking no action regarding the provision of child care without a license.” See: 41 TexReg 1493, Adopted Rules, page 1.
[10] See Matthews v. Diaz 426 U.S. 67: “The fact that all persons, aliens and citizens alike, are protected by the Due Process Clause does not lead to the further conclusion that all aliens are entitled to enjoy all the advantages of citizenship, or, indeed, to the conclusion that all aliens must be placed in a single homogeneous legal classification.” (emphasis added)
[11] Quote of George Washington by M. O’Connor Hurley, The Asylum Process: Past, Present, and Future, 26 New Eng. L. Rev. 995 (1992).
[12] See The Catholic Church’s Position on Immigration Reform, August 2013