Preparing for Immigration Raids: What Child and Youth Advocates and Service Providers Can Do

By Rebecca Ullrich

Updated on July 22, 2019

Empty parks and grocery stores. Absences from child care and summer camp. Employees calling out of work. In communities around the country, immigrant families are bracing themselves for mass immigration arrests. Some families are reportedly fleeing their homes, while others are hunkering down and refusing to leave or answer the door.

President Trump announced his administration’s intention to conduct waves of immigration raids around the country in a series of tweets in late June. The raids—which were set to begin on Sunday, June 23—were delayed while Congress negotiated funding to address the crisis at the Southwest border. A senior administration official announced on July 14 that the raids had begun, though reported actions were scattered and small in scale.

Advocates expect ICE enforcement actions will target recently arrived immigrants from Central America—including families with children—who already have removal orders. Raids are anticipated in as many as 10 cities, including Miami, Los Angeles, New York City/Newark, Washington/Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Atlanta, Denver, and New Orleans. However, ICE may also conduct enforcement actions in other areas, and agents may target unaccompanied youth with removal orders who have aged out of federal care and protections. We also anticipate that home raids and arrests in communities may result in collateral arrests of immigrants who weren’t the original targets of enforcement actions.

CLASP is deeply concerned about the harm of such enforcement actions on children, youth, families, and communities. In our own research, we heard first-hand how children are severely affected by such actions. Children who witness the arrest of a parent—particularly in their own home—are at greater risk of developing mental health and behavioral problems that have long-term implications for their overall development and future success. The detention or deportation of a parent also decimates families’ household incomes, making it more difficult for the remaining parent or caregiver to make ends meet.

Massive enforcement actions also take a major toll on the organizations that serve children, youth, and families, including child care providers, schools, churches, food banks, and others. These organizations are forced into crisis mode to meet families’ immediate needs and to ensure that families are reunited. Over time, direct service providers bear the added responsibility of mitigating long-term harm to children whose families were needlessly torn apart.

While the raids have yet to materialize at the large scale promised by the administration, the threat alone has taken a toll on communities that are already under constant attack from the president and his allies. In the meantime, it is vital that advocates and providers—who are trusted resources for immigrant families—take steps to prepare their organizations and communities for the possibility of enforcement actions. Such advocacy and community education proved vital over the course of the last week or so. For example, efforts to apprehend immigrants in their homes in Houston and New York City were unsuccessful because community members knew their rights and refused to open their doors to ICE agents.

CLASP can support children’s and youth organizations in preparing for and responding to immigration enforcement actions in their communities. Here are a few key initial steps we recommend:

  • Issue organizational statements or guidance. Don’t wait for a raid to occur in your community. As soon as possible, advocacy organizations should issue statements in opposition to the raids; government agencies should issue guidance around data privacy and immigrants’ rights; and service providers should communicate their plan if enforcement actions occur in the community and connect clients and parents with resources. CLASP has talking points on the raids for early childhood stakeholders.
  • Have a plan. Direct service providers should take steps to prepare your program for the possibility of a raid in your communities. Ensure that children’s emergency contacts are current. Know your rights and have a plan in place in the unlikely event that immigration enforcement actions occur at your center- or school-based location. CLASP has a guide to creating “safe space” policies for early childhood programs, including a template policy.
  • Share resources with families and community members. CLASP is compiling resources to help providers and families prepare for possible enforcement actions. Visit our resource page for more information on Know Your Rights, family emergency preparation and parental rights, mental health supports, and tools for direct service providers.

If you have additional questions or resource needs, please contact Rebecca Ullrich and Wendy Cervantes.