Supreme Court Hears Arguments in U.S. v. Texas Immigration Case: Why Poverty and Early Childhood Advocates Should Care

On April 18, 2016, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that directly affects millions of families and children.  In United States v. Texas, the Court will determine whether or not immigration actions announced by the Obama administration in 2014, known as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs, will be implemented.

These executive actions would defer deportation and authorize work for eligible immigrant parents of about 5 million U.S. citizen children and others with long-term ties to the country. Legal challenges pursued by Texas and 25 other states have resulted in a hold on implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA. As CLASP and 75 other organizations representing the interests of children have pointed out in an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief, the research evidence indicates that allowing these programs to go forward will stabilize families and stop endangering their children’s overall well-being, educational attainment, and future economic success by removing the threat of a parent’s deportation.

These initiatives would change the lives of countless families across the United States, many of whom have U.S. citizen children under the age of five. These children do not live in isolation. They will live and grow up in communities where their individual success is critical to the strength of our country’s future workforce and our collective economic security. It is important to America’s future to do everything we can as a nation so that these citizen children succeed – and at the very least, stop putting their healthy development and education at risk by destabilizing their families.

A large and growing body of research has exposed the harm that children experience as a result of their parents’ unauthorized status due to ongoing family economic hardship as well as risks to their social-emotional and cognitive development. Children of unauthorized immigrants are also more likely than their peers to live in poverty, which has long-lasting negative implications for their healthy development. For parents, the fear of detention or deportation can cause high levels of stress and social isolation, which have negative impacts on caregiving and contribute to negative child outcomes. For instance, studies have shown that children who did not see their parents for more than a month experienced irregular sleeping habits, more anger, and withdrawal, absences from school, and drops in academic achievement.

Because of these high stakes, the joint amicus brief filed in March detailed the potentially devastating consequences for the Supreme Court justices to consider as they deliberate this case.  Beyond the powerful legal case for the President’s Executive Action, the amicus brief argues the Supreme Court should take into account the crucial stake that this case has in stabilizing the families of citizen children. If the Court upholds the President’s action, it will be acting to promote the nation’s future success, by reducing parent and child stress caused by fear of detention, deportation, and separation and allowing eligible youth and families to come forward, pursue better economic opportunities, and access educational and other resources for themselves and their children.

At the core of the case is an opportunity to support child well-being and family economic security and ensure that millions of families benefit from increased access to opportunity. That’s why everybody who cares about the country’s future success—advocates, policymakers, business and civic leaders, educators—should care deeply about the decision facing the Supreme Court, whether to uphold the President’s actions and provide stability to millions of young Americans and their immigrant parents.