April 7, 2010
WASHINGTON – A new report released today examines the impact immigration enforcement has on the thousands of children of undocumented immigrants, 73% of whom are U.S. citizens. This includes risks to child safety and well-being, such as the needless separation of children from parents. The report also highlights the growing challenges for state child welfare agencies that encounter separated children.
The report, entitled The Impact of Immigration Enforcement on Child Welfare, reveals that the over 5 million children in the United States with at least one undocumented parent are at risk of unnecessarily entering the child welfare system when a parent is detained or deported. When a child enters the child welfare system, immigrant parents face huge obstacles in reuniting with the child. For example, if a parent is detained or deported, they cannot take part in child welfare proceedings like family court or case plan requirements, which creates the risk of permanent, unnecessary separation of the child from their parents.
The report reinforces the need for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to consider the well-being of children and families not only in work-site raids, as outlined in previous policy, but in all ICE enforcement activities. It recommends that authorities allow children to remain with their families and avoid placement in the child welfare system whenever possible. Furthermore, authorities should ensure that separated children in the system receive appropriate care, while detained parents are afforded the right to due process.
The report was released by First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, in partnership with the Migration and Child Welfare National Network. The report is the first of a new paper series entitled, Caught Between Systems: The Intersection of Immigration and Child Welfare Policies.
“It is time for the Department of Homeland Security to address the serious consequences that immigration enforcement continues to have on children and families. When innocent children are needlessly separated from their parents, many unnecessarily end up in the child welfare system and risk permanent family separation,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, which released the report. “There is no reason a child should suffer the trauma of being separated from a parent or end up in the child welfare system when there are tangible solutions to prevent that from happening. This report acknowledges the urgent need for DHS to implement policies for responsible immigration enforcement that protects child well-being and family unity.”
The report provides policy solutions for immigration courts, ICE, and the child welfare system, while pointing to legislation that will accomplish these goals. Among many other measures, these policies include:
The Caught Between Systems series examines the many challenges that arise when the immigration and child welfare systems collide and provides solutions on how the two systems can work together to better protect the interests of immigrant children and families.