Our Statement on Executive Actions on Immigration

Posted February 24, 2017
Blog ourstatementonexecutiveactions 2017

As the cre­ators and lead­ers of tomor­row, all chil­dren are vital to our country’s growth, pros­per­i­ty and well-being. This includes 18 mil­lion chil­dren and youth who are sons and daugh­ters of immi­grants or are immi­grants them­selves. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s mis­sion is to ensure that all chil­dren in the Unit­ed States have a bright future. A bright future requires that all young peo­ple and their fam­i­lies have access to resources that will help them thrive. They deserve poli­cies that keep fam­i­lies togeth­er and allow them to flour­ish, com­mu­ni­ties that sup­port them and sys­tems that pro­tect them.

Recent admin­is­tra­tive actions could derail the future and threat­en the well-being of near­ly a quar­ter of our young peo­ple who are liv­ing in immi­grant fam­i­lies. The vast major­i­ty of those 18 mil­lion chil­dren and youth, most of them chil­dren and youth of col­or, are Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, but at least 5 mil­lion have par­ents who do not have legal sta­tus. Although it’s unclear how exten­sive enforce­ment activ­i­ties will be, the recent exec­u­tive order low­ered the bar on what is con­sid­ered a charge­able offense,” effec­tive­ly mak­ing all unau­tho­rized immi­grants sub­ject to deportation.

As a result, more chil­dren will face the wrench­ing prospect of being sep­a­rat­ed from their par­ents or being forced to leave their homes for a coun­try that is not their own. Decades of child devel­op­ment research have doc­u­ment­ed that chil­dren expe­ri­ence many detri­men­tal effects when they are sep­a­rat­ed from their fam­i­lies – increased risks of psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tion­al prob­lems, risks of poor health out­comes and risks to their nor­mal devel­op­ment. These set­backs com­pro­mise their abil­i­ty to reach their full poten­tial and their abil­i­ty to con­tribute to our coun­try’s pros­per­i­ty. Research shows that liv­ing with at least one parental fig­ure is inte­gral to a child’s healthy devel­op­ment and con­tin­ues to con­fer ben­e­fits that con­tribute to his suc­cess through­out life. Chil­dren become with­drawn or extreme­ly anx­ious after a par­ent is deport­ed, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for them to attend school, per­form in class or inter­act with peers. In addi­tion, the absence of a par­ent who is the main source of income fre­quent­ly sends fam­i­lies into a spi­ral of finan­cial insecurity.

Our grantees in com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try are wit­ness­ing first­hand the con­se­quences of these devel­op­ments. Many are strug­gling with how best to ensure that par­ents feel safe enough to bring their chil­dren to school or to doctor’s appoint­ments, to go to work or attend reli­gious ser­vices. We are con­cerned about the effects that exist­ing and pro­posed exec­u­tive actions may have on access to ear­ly care and edu­ca­tion, health and nutri­tion ser­vices and oth­er income-sta­bi­liz­ing sup­port for chil­dren of immi­grant par­ents. Although low-income immi­grants are less like­ly to use pub­lic ben­e­fits than the native born, more severe restric­tions could have dam­ag­ing effects on the health and well-being of mil­lions of chil­dren who are enti­tled to these services.

At the Casey Foun­da­tion, we also rec­og­nize the bur­den these actions place on sys­tems that sup­port chil­dren and fam­i­lies. We know that child wel­fare sys­tems across the coun­try are already strug­gling to pro­vide safe, nur­tur­ing fos­ter homes for the hun­dreds of thou­sands of chil­dren removed from their fam­i­lies due to abuse and neglect. Adding hun­dreds of thou­sands of addi­tion­al chil­dren left alone due to depor­ta­tions would over­whelm these sys­tems, at great cost, and put their essen­tial mis­sion of pro­tect­ing abused chil­dren at risk.

As a Foun­da­tion that is focused on improv­ing out­comes for chil­dren and ensur­ing racial and eth­nic equi­ty, we are sup­port­ing orga­ni­za­tions that are engaged in pro­tect­ing immi­grant fam­i­lies from harm­ful pol­i­cy deci­sions. For many of our part­ners in city and coun­ty gov­ern­ment, uni­ver­si­ties and schools, the exec­u­tive orders threat­en a cut in fed­er­al fund­ing. These sanc­tu­ary places” refuse to use local police to engage in depor­ta­tion activ­i­ties or to allow immi­gra­tion enforce­ment activ­i­ties in their class­rooms or uni­ver­si­ty grounds in an effort to pri­or­i­tize the best inter­ests of chil­dren. Com­mu­ni­ties, schools and church­es that seek to sup­port immi­grant chil­dren and par­ents should be allowed to do so with­out fear of retribution.

We know that there are crit­i­cal pol­i­cy con­ver­sa­tions unfold­ing as our lead­ers con­sid­er the best ways to pro­tect and strength­en our coun­try. The Foun­da­tion is part­ner­ing with its grantees to edu­cate deci­sion mak­ers so that the inter­ests of chil­dren in immi­grant fam­i­lies are con­sid­ered. Based on what we know from research and expe­ri­ence, we hope that pol­i­cy­mak­ers will make every effort to ensure that chil­dren and youth can stay with their fam­i­lies in the com­mu­ni­ties they call home.

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