July 9, 2019 | Press Release

New law allows undocumented residents to designate “standby guardian” for children if parents are detained

Nadeau bill is a response to ICE activity in the District

The legislation expands the District’s standby guardianship law to enable a parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian, who is, or may be subject to an adverse immigration action to make short-term plans for a child in their care without terminating or limiting that person’s parental or custodial rights. This standby guardianship law allows parents to legally designate a trusted adult who can care for their child temporarily. The guardianship automatically becomes effective when an adverse immigration action takes place. 

“This is a way to create certainty for families in a very uncertain time,” said Councilmember Nadeau. “Our current president has made immigration detention and deportation a signature issue of his administration. Despite the fact that the District identifies itself as a sanctuary city, there continue to be ICE apprehensions and detainments in the District. In one recent instance, children were separated from their parents.”

The District first introduced a standby guardianships law in the early 2000’s after many other jurisdictions had introduced similar legislation in response to the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Existing custody law was not adequate for a parent who was terminally ill, or who was periodically incapable of caring for the needs of a child due to illness. Children were becoming unnecessarily involved in adversarial court proceedings or were without legally sanctioned caretakers. Expanding this legal protection to immigrant families allows them to make advanced plans for their children. Under current law, many are unable to do so without giving up some or all of their custodial rights.

The bill was passed as “emergency” legislation to ensure it becomes active as soon as possible while identical versions of the bill make their way through the normal legislative process. Under the D.C. Home Rule Act, emergency legislation can be passed without Congressional review and stays in place for 90 days. Nadeau also introduced matching temporary and permanent versions of the bill. The temporary bill, which also received the first of two required affirmative votes, would go into place following the expiration of the emergency bill for up to 225 days, serving as a bridge until the permanent version is passed later this year. The permanent version will require a public hearing and undergoes Congressional review. The temporary bill is expected to get its second affirmative vote when Council returns after its summer recess. All versions of the bill were co-introduced by all Councilmembers.

“I want to thank all of my colleagues for their support and I want to especially thank CARECEN, CAIR, the DC KinCare Alliance for working closely with me and my staff to get this emergency legislation finalized as quickly as possible,” said Councilmember Nadeau.

The bill text is available here: http://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/B23-0384 
The resolution required as part of the emergency legislation process is available here: http://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/PR23-0437