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 in a June 23 press briefing. AFT President Randi Weingarten was among the participants.
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. Anxieties and other issues caused by the threat of deportation, family separation and economic insecurity could be resolved if the temporary relief programs were allowed to proceed, according to recent studies. This fact sheet from America's Voice Education Fund has 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 in July before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Weingarten said that teachers' frustration with external factors that impact students' ability to learn "turns to anger and rage when we start talking about immigration."
"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," she added. The harm to children can be repaired immediately by allowing the executive actions to go forward in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform.
"The research shows that lifting the fear of deportation and enabling parents to better provide for their children is just commonsense policy," said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus. "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."
The lawsuit will be a landmark case because of what it will say about how our nation treats citizen children, said Roberto Suro, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication 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."
[America's Voice Education Fund]