Good afternoon. My name is Maggie Stern and I am here today testifying in opposition to HB 2.
Children’s Defense Fund is a nonprofit child advocacy organization with the mission to ensure every child a Healthy, Fair, Safe, and Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood. This bill will harm our most vulnerable children by increasing the likelihood and length of time that they will be separated from their caregivers who are caught up in the criminal legal system.
HB 2 would increase the likelihood that children will be separated from their caregivers by making innocent Texans more likely to plead guilty to avoid the weeks or months spent waiting for trial in jail. Poor Texans who are unable to pay bail are also less likely to have legal representation who can inform them of their rights and advise them against unnecessary plea deals – meaning that people in poverty and their families who rely on them will be doubly harmed by this legislation.
HB 2 would also increase the length of time that children will be separated from their caregivers by forcing Texans to sit in pretrial detention – which both removes them from their families and people who depend on them, and increases a person’s likelihood of future rearrest. Again, children living in poverty who most need support will be most likely to be harmed under HB 2 if their caregivers are unnecessarily detained for weeks or months before trial.
Separating children from their caregivers harms young Texans by removing loving providers from the home, taking away financial supports, and increasing toxic stress which can have lifelong physical and mental consequences. Texas children and families deserve better. They deserve compassion, community support, and real solutions that address the issues they are facing. We urge you to oppose HB 2.