Feb 13, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Trump’s Immigration Raids: An Attack on Our Nation’s Children

By Wendy Cervantes

This article was originally published on Medium.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet some incredible young heroes in my work as an advocate for immigrant kids and families. One of these heroes, Zury, just turned 6 last week. But rather than focus on celebrating her birthday, Zury and her siblings Roberto (10) and Luna (12), both U.S. citizens like her, have spent the past few weeks anxiously awaiting their mom’s annual check-in appointment with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) scheduled for Wednesday February 15th.

ZuryZury and her siblings have been advocates since a young age, participating in immigrant rights rallies in their hometown of Denver as well as in Washington, D.C. Last year they even starred in a national PSA campaign aimed at highlighting the impact of immigrant enforcement on children. Therefore, they are all too familiar with the anxiety surrounding their mother’s annual check-in. But this time is different because last month President Trump issued an executive order that now makes their mother a priority for deportation. 

So, like millions of children around the country like them, Zury and her siblings are afraid.

Unfortunately, their fear is not unfounded. Last week the deportation regime promised by President Trump during his campaign was unleashed, creating chaos among whole communities. Contrary to the President’s former claim that he would primarily focus on deporting so-called “criminal aliens,” parents and other long-time residents have now become targets as well. The raids that swept through homes and workplaces across the country last week resulted in the detention and deportation of hundreds of immigrants, including many who had only committed minor violations or were simply taken into custody as bystanders unable to provide documentation. In the aftermath, children and families have been left to question their safety in the communities they love and call home.

The fact that a much larger group of immigrants are now being targeted is a reflection of controversial aspects of the president’s executive order. For example, the order significantly broadens the scope of enforcement priorities that previously safeguarded many parents and long-time residents whose only violation was living in the country without documentation. In fact, one of the first immigrants to be deported following the order’s introduction was Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, mother of two U.S. citizen children, who was immediately apprehended and detained during her annual check-in with ICE in Phoenix.

Cases like Guadalupe’s and disturbing reports of ICE agents allegedly following school buses during last week’s raids also raise concerns over the Trump Administration’s adherence to existing protocols—-all of which have broad bipartisan support—-designed to mitigate the collateral harm to children as a result of immigration enforcement.

For example, a 2013 ICE policy known as the “parental interest directive” instructs ICE personnel to consider the use of prosecutorial discretion in cases involving a parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident minor child, as well as the primary caregivers of a minor (regardless of the minor’s immigration status). The directive also instructs ICE personnel to ensure that parents and legal guardians subject to deportation are able to make decisions regarding their child’s care, such as arranging guardianships or coordinating travel for their child to accompany them at the time of removal. Another critical policy restricts ICE’s ability to conduct enforcement actions in places considered “sensitive locations” such as schools, child care centers, hospitals, and places of worship in an effort to prevent fear of enforcement from deterring children and families from their daily routines.

The harm suffered by children who are separated from a parent due to deportation—or who simply live in fear of separation—are well documented, including impacts to their mental and physical health, economic security, and school performance.  Research shows that kids who witness their parent’s arrest, such as those present during last week’s home raids, are much more likely to suffer long-term behavioral changes. Children whose parents are detained or deported are also at risk of unnecessarily entering the child welfare system, an outcome that can have particularly dire consequences. Such consequences could become much more common if ICE fails to adhere to policies like the parental interest directive, which also provides specific protections for parents with children in the foster care system.

Make no mistake about it: Trump’s raids are not about getting tough on criminals. They are about terrorizing children, families, and communities. Kids like Zury represent the future of our country, and we are no safer or better off when any child is put in harm’s way. In America, no child should have to live in fear of losing a parent, and the president must be held accountable for ensuring his new policies do not needlessly traumatize our youngest citizens or tear families apart.

See NILC’s Know Your Rights materials for immigrant communities

Join the United We Dream’s #HereToStay network to learn how to support immigrants in your area

Feb 3, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Safe Spaces in Early Childhood: New Resources to Support Young Children in Immigrant Families

By: Wendy Cervantes

Last week, the new administration began to issue a series of executive orders on immigration and refugee policy, creating a great deal of uncertainty among immigrant families and the people who serve them. One of the orders focused on interior enforcement would significantly expand immigration enforcement measures, increasing the risk that over 5 million children—the majority of whom are U.S. citizens—could be separated from a parent. Schools and child care and Head Start programs should be prepared to support immigrant families during this difficult time and be aware of the existing protections under current laws and policies.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued a user-friendly fact sheet to help clarify current policy from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security restricting immigration enforcement actions at or near schools and other “sensitive locations.” The fact sheet clearly specifies that child care centers, bus stops, and similar places fall under the “sensitive locations” definition.  Another immigration enforcement guide developed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and other partners also proposes how educators and service providers can support and advocate for students and families at risk of being targeted by enforcement actions.

Research consistently shows that fear of separation from a parent due to immigration enforcement hinders a child’s ability to concentrate in school and can have harmful long-term implications for a child’s overall health and well-being. Heightened concerns over immigration enforcement can also create a chilling effect on school attendance, particularly when local police are engaged in immigration enforcement efforts. Thus, it is important that administrators and providers address the increased anxiety among children and families due to the recent immigration executive orders by assuring them that early childhood programs and schools will remain safe spaces for all students. 

Another important tool recently released by ED is a comprehensive resource guide to promote access to quality early learning and elementary education for immigrant families. The guide includes tips for providers on how to better serve children, along with a handbook to educate parents and families about early learning opportunities. The guide also compiles critical information on educational rights of children in immigrant families—such as the federal right to equal access to public education for all children regardless of immigration status—and federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or disability. Finally, it includes an overview of schools’ obligations to meet the needs of English Learners and accommodate Limited English Proficient parents.

These resources come at a critical time when our child population is more diverse than ever, yet our policies and systems continue struggling to respond effectively. While young children of immigrants now comprise the fastest growing segment of the U.S. child population, they remain underrepresented in early learning programs, and the recent executive orders now threaten to further deter immigrant families from seeking early learning opportunities.

Schools and program administrators have a responsibility to uphold the educational rights of children in immigrant families, provide families with accurate information, and create welcoming environments where all children can feel safe and supported. CLASP looks forward to working with early childhood advocates to promote programs and policies that will ensure every child has the opportunity to pursue an education free from fear and discrimination. We encourage our partners to share these resources with administrators, providers, and parents.

Read the ED Sensitive Locations Fact Sheet>>

Read the AFT Immigrant and Refugee Children Guide>>

Read the ED Resource Guide: Building a Bright Future for All>>


Jan 11, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Dwindling Support for Working Families’ Child Care Needs

By Hannah Matthews

Today, CLASP released new fact sheets underscoring the need for increased investment in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). These resources, which also demonstrate CCDBG’s overwhelming benefits, come at a critical moment when federal policymakers must begin to make good on their campaign promises to support working families.

For several years, CLASP has documented the slow decline in the number of children served by CCDBG, the primary source of federal funds for child care assistance. Our first fact sheet shows CCDBG Participation Drops to a Historic Low, that CCDBG is again reaching the smallest number of children in its history, according to newly released administrative data from 2015. Fewer than 1.4 million children received CCDBG-funded child care in an average month—21 percent fewer children than did so in 2006 due to declining federal and state investments. Across the country, more than 85 percent of children who qualify for help cannot access the program.

Our second fact sheet, Fewer Children, Fewer Providers, documents a related issue about the declining reach of CCDBG-funded care; since 2006, the number of child care providers receiving CCDBG payments has declined by 52 percentCCDBG funds may be used to support a wide range of child care providers, including those in center-based and home-based settings, along with providers who are licensed and those exempt from regulation in their state. Administrative data show fewer providers of every type are receiving CCDBG support, with the steepest declines seen among home-based providers—regardless of their licensed status—and license-exempt providers overall.

Increasingly, children receiving care through CCDBG funds are more likely to be in licensed settings (87 percent) and in centers (73 percent). From 2006 to 2015, there was a 70 percent decline in the number of children cared for in license-exempt settings, including providers who are relatives and non-relatives.  

There are many questions about who is being served in CCDBG that the administrative data cannot answer. But the subsidy system is clearly providing less access to license-exempt settings. Given the increase in non-standard work hours and volatile scheduling that overwhelmingly impact low-income workers, the data suggest that many families—those who rely on informal care and home-based care to meet their child care needs—are being left behind. Children in these families also need access to quality settings, while their parents need affordable child care options.

Over the past several months, we’ve engaged in a national dialogue about child care affordability (in part due to the presidential election). However, these discussions have not gone far enough. Despite making important improvements to CCDBG in its 2014 reauthorization, Congress has overseen a dramatic decline in child care availability. It’s time to recognize that enacting real bipartisan reform requires that we address the program’s declining reach and distressingly low payment rates as well as state discretionary policies that limit access to child care assistance.  

In order to seize opportunities from CCDBG’s reauthorization, states need significant new resources to strengthen CCDBG, improve continuity for children and families, and support providers in achieving new health and safety requirements. Unfortunately, the emerging policy agenda of our new Congress and president would devastate many low-income families. Congress must make good on its promises to expand opportunity, starting with investing in CCDBG to help hard-working families’ access high-quality care. Now more than ever, children and parents need assistance.

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