The Impact of Immigration Enforcement on Child Welfare

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This report frames the immigration policy debate as a child welfare issue, outlining various ways children and their families are affected by immigration enforcement and recommending policy changes for the courts and for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The 5.5 million U.S. children living with at least one undocumented parent are at a greater risk of being separated from their parents and placed in the child welfare system, according to the research.

The report, commissioned by the children’s advocacy nonprofit First Focus, is the first in a series titled Caught Between Systems: The Intersection of Immigration and Child Welfare Policies.

Though the researchers do not know the exact number of children affected by immigration enforcement, they cite previous reports from outside groups showing that for every two adults apprehended in a worksite raid, one child is affected, and that 108,000 undocumented parents of U.S. citizen children were deported between 1997 and 2007. Another outside study cited in this report showed that children separated from their parents face such problems as emotional trauma, housing insecurity and food shortages.

Policy recommendations include urging immigration court judges to weigh the potential harm to the child if a parent is to be deported and advocating education and training for law enforcement officials and development of a national network of deportation defense lawyers.

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