Supreme Court Should Allow Executive Action on Immigration to Go Forward in the Interest of Millions of Children
By Christina Walker and Hannah Matthews
On March 8, 2016, an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief was filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, on behalf of 76 children’s and educator organizations committed to safeguarding the healthy development, educational opportunities, emotional well-being, and economic stability of all children in the United States. CLASP, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Federation of Teachers, First Focus, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association, led the development of this brief that argues the Court should lift the current injunction preventing implementation of President Obama’s executive action on immigration, known as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs. This could stabilize families and provide an opportunity to enhance their children’s overall well-being, educational attainment, and future economic success by removing the threat of deportation for millions of parents of U.S. citizen children.
In November 2014, President Obama announced his executive action plan to defer deportation and authorize work for up to 5 million unauthorized immigrants, including an estimated 3.5 million parents with U.S. citizen children. Legal challenges pursued by Texas and 25 other states have resulted in a hold on implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA. Next month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case, United States v. Texas, with a decision expected in June.
The implications of the Supreme Court’s decision will be far reaching. More than 5 million children in the United States have at least one unauthorized immigrant parent (about 7 percent of the total child population). Approximately one-third of these children are under the age of five. The vast majority of these 5 million children—79 percent—are citizens, and another 2 percent have legal status. These children will live and grow up in the U.S. Their educational, health, and economic outcomes are not only important for their individual success but also will determine the strength of our country’s future workforce and our collective economic security.
There may be no greater trauma for children than separation from their parents. The implications for young children in particular are great, as they are physically, emotionally, and economically dependent on their parents. A large and growing body of research is uncovering the harm that children experience as a result of their parents’ unauthorized status, including family economic hardship and risks to their emotional security and cognitive 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. 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.
DAPA and expanded DACA provide a tremendous opportunity to reduce parent and child stress caused by fear of detention, deportation, and separation and to allow eligible youth and families to come out of the shadows, pursue better economic opportunities and access educational and other resources for themselves and their children, including early childhood services. Thus, DAPA and the expanded DACA program have the potential to improve the educational, health, and economic outcomes of millions of children whose success is vitally important to the future of the United States.