Recently, the Senate passed an immigration reform bill and President Obama has urged the House to do the same. Such a measure would likely provide a path to citizenship for approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants. The House is debating whether the possibility of citizenship might apply only to those who were brought illegally as children and not to those who crossed the border as adults, meaning parents might face a greater risk of deportation than their children.
Immigration reform would certainly affect many families, especially the 5 million children who have at least one parent who is an undocumented immigrant. As Future of Children authors Nancy S. Landale, Kevin J. A. Thomas, and Jennifer Van Hook write, the number of unauthorized immigrants arrested at workplaces has increased, and the children related to those who are arrested often experience family separation and material hardship. If deportations increase, more children could find themselves in this situation.
Such experiences affect children’s psychological well-being. Children in families directly affected by immigration enforcement via workplace raids tend to feel abandonment, fear, social isolation, and anger. Children and parents may also experience chronic stress. To learn more about the challenges that immigrant children and their families face, along with pertinent policy recommendations, see the Future of Children issue on Immigrant Children.