Public domain, Wikipedia
The Arizona-Sonora border.
The Obama administration has deported approximately 3.7 million undocumented people between 2009 and 2013 (one of the many reasons immigration advocates granted him the nickname "deporter in chief"). Of that number, it's reported that probably half a million of them are parents. As a result, hundreds of thousands of U.S.-born children have either one or no parents in the U.S., according to the Migration Policy Institute.
So, what are the mental and economic effects on these kids? (By the way, there are roughly 5.3 million U.S. citizen children whose parents are undocumented.) The MPI tackled those questions, and recently put out two report
s with some answers.
The reports were a collaborative effort between the MPI and the Urban Institute
, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Immigration and Customs Enforcement helped out with some research, and part of the process involved fieldwork in five sites: California, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina and Texas.
Unsurprisingly, MPI found that economic hardship among mixed-status families gets worse when a parent is detained and deported. The Washington Post wrote
a nice summary:
The first, a survey of smaller-scale studies, conducted on unauthorized immigrant families, shows that the effects of losing a parent to deportation are basically the same as what happens when a parent goes to prison: Kids can become homeless, bounce around to different family members, lose focus in school, and undergo long-lasting psychological trauma. One study found that family income dropped by 70 percent in the six months following a deportation, and one quarter of families in that situation reported going hungry.
Then there are behavioral problems: lots of them, from depression to anger:
...also identified gaps in social services that are ill-equipped to handle the special needs of children whose families have been ruptured by immigration rules. “Study participants reported that children refused to eat, pulled out their hair, or had persistent stomachaches or headaches," the authors write. "Others turned to more self-destructive outlets such as cutting themselves or abusing substances."
Here are some of the solutions discussed on the report, which you should check on on its entirety, here
First, health and human service agencies could improve their staff’s language capacity, cultural competence, and knowledge of issues associated with immigration status.
Another approach involves building bridges between health and human services agencies and informal local organizations that immigrants trust. Coordination among the key agencies (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, social service agencies, and foreign country consulates) is critical, especially for the provision of child welfare services. And small organizations implement many promising strategies to serve children with detained and deported parents, but often face limited resources and high staff turnover.
Institutionalizing such strategies would provide a stronger safety net for these children and families in need.