Thursday, November 8, 2007

Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America’s Children

Check out this study conducted by the Urban Institute. The title is Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America’s Children [pdf] . Here's the executive summary (below). -Dra. Valenzuela

One of our society’s fundamental principles is that, to the extent possible, children
should not be punished for the sins of their parents. This principle has deep roots
in both religion and law. Many of the world’s great religions share similar
teachings. And, from a legal perspective, when our nation was created, the value that
children’s futures should not be based on their parents’ social status helped to shape the
world’s leading democracy.
Our child welfare system reflects this fundamental principle. If a child is endangered by
abuse or neglect, our society steps in to safeguard the best interests of the child. And while
there is clearly room for improvement in the child welfare system, there is little controversy
about the rationale for the system’s existence; few disagree that children deserve protection.
Like many morally sound policies, adherence to this principle has practical benefits as well.
It happens to be in our long-term social and economic interest to minimize harm to
children. Research demonstrates that abused and neglected children are less likely to
become productive and well-adjusted adults. Thus, it’s a good investment for taxpayers
when we step in to ensure that children are protected.
This principle – and a core value of our democracy – is currently under assault. In recent
months, the Department of Homeland Security has launched a series of raids that have resulted in
the forcible separation of children from parents accused of violating our immigration laws.
Issues of immigration are fraught with emotion, which is perhaps fitting in this “nation of
immigrants.” While the emotion in this debate is understandable, the question is not
whether to enforce immigration laws but how. It is critically important to focus policyNCLR
maker attention on the fact that there are conflicting principles involved, and thus
significant policy choices to be made. Enforcement resources are not unlimited, and a
wise administration will make considered judgments about how best to make use of finite
resources for the good of the nation. Presumably, this requires some assessment of the
benefits of our enforcement priorities as compared to their costs. This study is the first
significant attempt to assess the costs of these enforcement choices on innocent children,
the most vulnerable members of our society.
The National Council of La Raza’s desire to stimulate a more thoughtful policy
conversation on enforcement priorities is our motivation for investing in this study, and
for seeking a well-respected research institution to conduct it. We asked the Urban
Institute to design a study that assesses the impact of immigration raids on children and
families and the institutions that support them, such as early childhood education centers
and school systems. Their findings help remove the issue from the hyperbole which
often surrounds it, and the report outlines implications for children, families, and
The results are striking. The number of children separated from one or both parents as a
result of immigration enforcement is significant; the study found that for every two
immigrants apprehended, one child was left behind. This suggests that potentially
thousands of children have been separated from their parents as a result of recent
immigration enforcement activities, and literally millions more may be at risk. The study
found that fully two-thirds of affected children are U.S. citizens or legal residents,
suggesting that the potential future costs for our country are significant. In addition, the
Urban Institute found that the impact on the social structures that support children was
profoundly negative. Surely Americans should be concerned when one of the effects of
enforcing the law is that school systems and child care providers must prepare for the
likelihood of substantial numbers of their children being left without care, without warning.
The Urban Institute’s results suggest that there is an urgent need for Congress and the
Administration to review the nation’s immigration enforcement priorities and undertake a
more careful analysis of the costs of the choices we make. If our immigration
enforcement strategy undermines the health and well-being of America’s children and the
structures designed to protect and nurture them, it is time to reconsider our priorities.
Janet Murguía
President and CEO
National Council of La Raza

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