Children and Youth Stuck in Limbo While Congress Fails to Act

By Jessica Gehr and Wendy Cervantes

The lives of millions of children and youth hang in the balance because Congress has yet to act on two critical issues: the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and passage of the Dream Act, which would provide work authorization and a path to citizenship for young adults (known as Dreamers) who are losing protection with President Trump’s termination of “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” or DACA. Congress now has less than two weeks to ensure children have uninterrupted access to health insurance and Dreamers can continue to work.

Each day that Congress fails to act on these issues, more states send out notices to families that their children may lose health coverage through CHIP and approximately 122 people lose their DACA status. So that families can celebrate with the certainty they need, Congress must address these top priorities before members leave for the holiday recess. Without these assurances, millions of children, youth, and families are stuck in limbo, unable to make a doctor’s appointment, sign a lease, or start a job. 

CHIP provides critical health coverage for 9 million low- and moderate-income children in working families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Federal funding for CHIP expired over two months ago, and now many states are planning to drop children from health insurance if Congress doesn’t act. This would undermine children’s health, place financial stress on families, and weaken our health care system.  Congress must act before the holidays to keep kids covered.

Equally urgent, Congress must pass a clean Dream Act to protect more than 800,000 DACA recipients from deportation and finally provide a pathway to citizenship to them and millions of other Dreamers who grew up here and call the United States their home. If Congress waits until March 5—the date that DACA officially expires—more than 22,000 DACA recipients will have already lost their status. After that, the number of young people affected will continue to skyrocket, and all Dreamers will be forced to wait months for a legislative solution to provide relief. The loss of DACA not only makes a young person vulnerable to deportation; it can also mean the loss of their job, employer-sponsored health insurance, and in some cases the ability to obtain a driver’s license or access in-state tuition

And it’s not just DACA recipients who would suffer the consequences—it’s also their families, including more than 200,000 U.S. citizen children with DACA parents and the communities that Dreamers have helped build. Each day Congress fails to pass the Dream Act young people like Juan Navarro, a DACA recipient pursuing his graduate degree in Oregon who came to the U.S. when he was just 3 years old, have to weigh the possibility of putting their college education on hold. And it’s also children like 11-year-old Jasmine who must face the constant fear of possibly losing their mothers and fathers to deportation. Dreamers and their families cannot wait one more day for Congress act. 

Congress has a long to-do list before the holiday recess; however, it must prioritize the lives of vulnerable children, youth, and families.  While news coverage focuses on whether Republicans or Democrats are “winning,” Congressional inaction has devastating consequences felt daily by families across the country. Extending funding for CHIP and passing the Dream Act are central to improving the health and wellbeing of our nation’s children and youth and allow them to plan for their future. Families need certainty and relief before the holidays— it’s time for Congress to act.

See our DACA resources page for more information.