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Study: Immigration Crackdowns Hurt Children

New America Media, News Report , Sarah Damian Posted: Feb 07, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Immigration enforcement takes a heavy toll on children, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute.

The study, "Facing Our Future: Children in the Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement," puts young people into the national immigration debate by assessing their experiences. There are 5.5 million children with unauthorized parents in the United States and when it comes to immigration enforcement, it is often the children who pay the price, said Carola Surez-Orozco, co-director of immigration studies at New York University.

The study was based on interviews of 85 families in which one or both parents were arrested in a worksite raid or other form of parental arrest. Within those families, there were 190 children, two-thirds of them U.S.-born citizens. The interviews were conducted at six sites.

According to the findings, children whose parents were detained for longer than a month experienced more changes in eating, sleeping, frequent crying, fear, anxiety, regression, clinginess, and aggressive behavior.

Sixty-eight percent of parents or caretakers questioned said they noticed at least three behavioral changes in the short-term, or three months after a parent was arrested. In the long-term, or nine months after an arrest, 56 percent of children ages 6 to 11 and 12 to 17 showed angry or aggressive behavior. The most typical changes were an increase or decrease in eating among all age groups.

Ajay Chaudry, co-author of the report and director of the Urban Institutes Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population, discussed the findings at a forum attended by immigration policy experts and advocates.

He explained the surprising resilience of children in their school attendance and performance despite family difficulties. It was impressive how many people talked about how important school became or continued to be. For many children who lost contact with a parent and had to move, school became a stable safe-haven.

Chaudry said DHS needs to work with federal and state departments in education services to address child needs. Another recommendation found in the report is to improve and increase alternatives to detention, such as the use of electronic monitoring devices and supervised release.

About 32,000 individuals are in detention on any given day,Chaudry said, while 16,000 individuals are released with alternatives to detention. We think that ratio can be flipped.

The report also recommends replacing worksite raids with other employer enforcement strategies.

I think youve seen a number of changes with the new administration regarding worksite raids, said David Venturella, the acting director of the Office of Detention and Removal Operations with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The strategy has shifted to employer-focused compliance.

The report mentions that while audits and firings may inflict economic hardship, they avert some of the most adverse consequences for families, including the stigma of arrest, family separation, and anxiety about parental deportation.

Another step suggested in "Facing Our Future" for comprehensive reform involved making the parents of citizen children a priority group for establishing legal residency, requiring them to meet the same requirements as others in the population.

Related Articles:

Tea Party Dabbles in Immigration Politics

DREAM Act for California Immigrant Students Gets Push

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