Fears of Deportation Seen in Classrooms and Research, Children’s Advocates Say
Millions of U.S. citizen children of immigrant parents are paying the heaviest price for the failures of our immigration policies, most recently the lawsuit now blocking immigration relief programs announced last November by President Obama, children’s advocates and immigration scholars said today.
The court case, driven by conservative, anti-immigrant politicians in 26 states, has threatened the academic and social development of these young citizens, the advocates said during a telephonic press conference. Anxieties and lower cognitive skills, caused by the threat of deportation, family separation, economic insecurity and other issues could be resolved if the temporary relief programs were allowed to proceed, according to recent studies (see this fact sheet from America’s Voice Education Fund for more information).
“While much attention has been paid to the politics around the prolonged legal battle challenging the president’s executive actions, much less attention has been given to how the lawsuit is impacting the lives of millions of U.S. citizen children,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.
Approximately 5.5 million U.S. citizen children live with a parent who would be eligible for protection from deportation and work authorization under the president’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). The administration also proposed expanding the successful 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Both programs have been blocked by the courts pending the outcome of the lawsuit, which will have a hearing next month before the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans.
“The research shows that lifting the fear of deportation and enabling parents to better provide for their children is just common sense policy. It’s simple: when parents are able to focus on being parents, children do better. And when children do better, we as a country do better,” said Bruce Lesley, First Focus president.
“For too long, our immigration policies have overlooked the needs of children, and they have paid a heavy price for it. The lawsuit blocking the President’s executive actions is not only misguided and irresponsible, but it’s also playing politics with the lives of millions of children and families who are now left waiting in limbo,” Lesley said.
Joanna Dreby, of the University of Albany, State University of New York, who has studied the impact of current immigration policies on families, described to reporters the economic instability and the stigma caused by children’s worries that a parent will suddenly be arrested and deported.
“Deported fathers in the families I met could not send money to provide from their children even after a deportation as they struggled to find work in their home countries. This leaves children in extremely precarious situations — in single parent households facing severe and sudden poverty,” Dreby said. Also, “children in the first, second and third grade also told me that immigrants were illegals and not allowed to be here. They hid their immigrant background from their friends, not wanting anyone to know that their parents were born elsewhere.”
Teachers’ frustration with external factors that impact students’ ability to learn “turns to anger, rage, when we start talking about immigration,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
“Teachers throughout the country understand, and have seen what happens to children who are so fearful because they are worried that a parent will not be home when they arrive home.” The harm to children can be repaired immediately by allowing the executive actions to go forward in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, Weingarten added.
The lawsuit will be a landmark case because of what it will say about how our nation treats citizen children, said Roberto Suro of the Annnenberg School for Communications and Journalism and the director of the Tomás Rivera Policy Center at the University of Southern California.
“The meaning of this case has to be understood as going beyond the technicalities. It has to be understood as involving the fates of U.S. citizen children. The stakes are very high because these children have been placed in a perverse position because of policy failure,” Suro said.
· For an audio recording of today’s call click here.
· Find “How the Lawsuit against DAPA and DACA 2.0 Hurts U.S. Citizen Children”, America’s Voice Education Fund, here.
· To learn more about families separated by deportation, watch America’s Voice Education Fund’s live Father’s Day Chat, featuring Pastor Max Villatoro and Brigido Acosta here.