While millions of illegal immigrants continue to be a focus of attention and debate in the United States, the estimated 5.5 million children of illegal immigrants are often overlooked.
Researchers for this report examined 190 children of 85 families in six different locations for the effects of parental arrest, detention and deportation. Sites included areas of heavy U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids at worksites, in homes and on the streets.
Children separated from one or both parents were common because of the parents’ detainment and/or deportation. Most families in the sample had a parent who was unable to work because the parent was detained, deported or barred from working as a condition of release. This loss of work resulted in families losing homes and not having enough to eat at times.
The behaviors of the immigrant children studied were highly affected by separation from their parents as well as the economic hardships. According to the report, eating and sleeping habits changed in two-thirds of children. More than half experienced excessive crying and felt more fear, while more than one-third of the immigrant children became severely anxious, withdrawn, clingy, angry or aggressive. Behavioral changes were greater among children who saw their parents arrested during home raids. Children missed school and received lower grades.
The researchers suggested changes in current immigration laws and immigration enforcement strategies, as well as community responses and services for the children of immigrants and their families.