Authorities said they detained more than 600 allegedly undocumented immigrants in raids in several cities in Mississippi this week. In some instances, children returned from school with no one to care for them or were not picked up from child care centers. Mississippi Child Protective Services said it was not notified of the operations in advance. Below is a statement from Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national philanthropy focused on children’s well-being.
“We must put the well-being of children at the center of policies and actions in this country. Our children are our future, and they trust us as adults to make caring for them our highest priority. That’s why it is exceptionally dispiriting that immigration enforcement operations separating children from their working parents in Mississippi this week neglected the well-being of those children and their families.
“The situation was made worse by the failure of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to provide advance notice to the agencies responsible for the safety and security of kids who suddenly lacked access to their parents. We know that keeping families together leads to the best outcomes for children. We also know that the work undertaken by public systems in the states, including Mississippi, to protect all children who are separated from their families for any reason is difficult, even under ordinary circumstances. These already overburdened systems need the information and resources to do the best they can by these children in such traumatic and challenging situations.
“Children who undergo sudden separations from their parents process these experiences as traumatic injuries that can have long-term consequences for their health. All children are innocent and blameless, and it is essential that we treat them with exactly the same amount of compassion and sensitivity we would want for our own children if something happened to us.
“The Casey Foundation envisions a brighter future for all children — including children in immigrant families — and promotes racial and ethnic equity. We support, and will continue to support, organizations engaged in ensuring the well-being of immigrant families.
“Our 2017 Race for Results report underscored the risks faced by kids, families and all of us as a nation if we fail to provide children in immigrant families with the stability, support and opportunities that will enable them to thrive. In that report, we made three recommendations toward ensuring these children can succeed. First, keep families together and in their communities to ensure stability; second, help children in immigrant families meet key developmental milestones by addressing educational and other needs; and third, increase opportunity for immigrant families.
“This week’s raids were only the latest event that has brought real harm to immigrant families and fear to the youngest and most vulnerable among us. We can do better, and we must do better. This is not a moment to be silent. The Casey Foundation calls on our elected officials to act in the best interest of all children. We urge leaders to invest in kids and use their voices to insist that the protection of all children be our highest priority. And we encourage everyone to raise their voices to say that this nation must treat children, our most precious resource, with decency, humanity and compassion.”