LatinaLista — It’s a telling coincidence that today of all days the National Council of La Raza would release a new report that is downright scary!
Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America’s Children is documentation for the first time on how severely impacted children are by seeing their parents either taken into federal custody or waiting for them, only to never arrive due to being caught in immigration raids.
This report spells out not only the initial impact of the event on these children but underscores the long-term effect that will haunt these children into their adulthood.
The sad thing is it doesn’t have to be this way.
The report, which is co-authored by the nonpartisan Urban Institute, looked at three communities where ICE had conducted large-scale worksite raids: Greeley, Colorado, Grand Island, Nebraska and New Bedford, Massachusetts.
In these raids, 506 children were directly affected.
As is popularly, almost stereotypically, known, Latino families, especially those comprised of immigrant parents, are very close. To think that the sudden departure of a parent, without a chance to say good-bye, would not be traumatic for any child reveals a callous public policy targeting children of undocumented immigrant parents.
As the report shows, the children suffer greatly:
Children experienced the emotional trauma of their parents’ sudden absence, often personalizing the cause of the separation and feeling abandoned or fearful that their parents could be abruptly taken away from them.
Mental health experts noted that children’s and parents’ fears and the events surrounding the raids led to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety, and suicidal thoughts in children.
The researchers found that while the majority of children remained behind with a second parent, there were some children who were left alone. In Grand Island, 17% of the children impacted by the raids had both of their parents arrested.
Some of the youngest children left behind in the MA immigration raids.
In essence, these children left without a parent are orphaned, and what makes it worse is that it is a government sanctioned policy.
While it’s true that it’s rare for a parent who is arrested will voluntarily give up his/her children, it doesn’t erase the fact that there has to be a federal policy in place that takes into account the children.
There needs to be policy on how to conduct a home raid or one that is conducted in front of children so that the trauma is not as severe when seeing their fathers and mothers forced down on the ground or against the wall and handcuffed and taken away.
There needs to be a policy that takes into account that if a child is so distraught during a witnessed raid, that there is a mental health professional, who can speak the “comfortable language” of the child and treat that child on-site, at that moment to minimize the trauma.
The NCLR/Urban Institute report offers several recommendations to local, state and federal officials on what should be in place before targeted worksite raids are conducted.
They are common sense suggestions but all require something that Homeland Security has not been willing to do in the past â€” be a team player with more than the local law enforcement agencies.
ICE should assume that children will be affected whenever adults are arrested in worksite enforcement operations and should develop a consistent policy for handling detained parents.
Congress should provide oversight of immigration enforcement activities to ensure that children are protected and should also consider providing resources to school systems and local agencies that respond to children’s needs.
Schools should develop systems to ensure that children have a safe place to go in the event of a school-hours raid.
Social services and other public agencies should prepare plans to respond to immigration raids and develop outreach strategies to assure parents and other caregivers that it is safe to seek emergency assistance and support for children under such circumstances.
It’s a fine line between being sensitive to children’s well-being and enforcing the law. But that is what marks the difference between great nations and developing countries that let fear and intimidation rule instead of compassion and common sense.
NCLR is asking Congress to hold hearings as soon as possible regarding the status of children already affected and who will be affected by future worksite immigration raids.
Otherwise, as this study clearly shows, the long-term emotional and financial costs to the country may be much higher than a plane ticket for a quickie deportation.