How the Trump Administration Has Harmed Immigrant Families, Children: An In-depth View from the Greater Boston Area and the Carolinas

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Washington, DC, July 28, 2020—Unprecedented and sustained attacks by the Trump Administration on immigrants are causing significant harm to the wellbeing of families, particularly children—most of whom are U.S. citizens. Over several months between late 2019 and early 2020, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) conducted a series of in-depth interviews with professionals serving immigrant families in the metropolitan areas of Boston, MA, Charlotte, NC, and Columbia, SC. CLASP conducted this research in collaboration with Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, and South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center.

During our interviews with a range of professionals—including child care providers, nurse home health and mental health care providers, health insurance navigators, nutrition assistance providers, and legal service providers—we heard similar themes echoed about the deeply damaging impacts families are experiencing because of the administration’s harmful rhetoric and enforcement tactics. Many interviewees shared stories of how the constant, looming fear of immigration enforcement is dramatically impacting the day-to-day lives of the immigrant parents and children in their communities.

“The Trump Administration has repeatedly shown indifference to the effects of its policies and rhetoric on children across the country and in some cases is deliberately using harm to immigrant children as a political lever,” said Madison Allen, co-author of the Carolinas report and senior policy analyst/attorney at CLASP. “We found that parents are altering their daily lives and avoiding public health, nutrition, and education programs because of these relentless attacks. We heard stories about parents being detained in front of their children, kids who are afraid to go outside and play, and chronic stress that will have long-term consequences for many children.”

In the Greater Boston Area, providers told us they are under immense pressure. They noted that organizations employing community members who are immigrants faced the added responsibility of addressing the needs of the families they serve and their own staffs. Even if staff aren’t immediately impacted, many have family members or friends who are affected by policy changes. One early education provider said, “There’s just a lot of internalized trauma going on.”

Our research found that conditions for immigrant children and their families in the Carolinas were exacerbated by confusion, misinformation and -- particularly in South Carolina -- limited availability of legal services. On top of policy threats at the federal level, immigrant families in the Carolinas face added barriers when accessing safety net programs like Medicaid due to shortcomings in the state eligibility software and training for social services staff.

“Children and families deserve better. We need to reverse course and help ensure that children and their families are on a path to success by advocating for policies that truly support economic security—rather than undermining our collective wellbeing and long-term success,” said Renato Rocha, co-author of both reports and policy analyst at CLASP.

These two reports— Trump Administration Immigration Policies are Harming Children and Families in the Greater Boston Area, Trump Administration Immigration Policies are Harming Children and Families in the Carolinas, along with an executive summary—complement a CLASP report released earlier this month examining the harm to immigrant families, children, and communities caused by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite raids.

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The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is a national, nonpartisan, anti-poverty organization advancing policy solutions for people with low incomes. CLASP’s solutions directly address the barriers people face because of their race, ethnicity, and immigration status.