Families & the Community

Supreme Court Deadlock on Immigration Could Affect Student Well-Being

By Corey Mitchell — June 24, 2016 2 min read
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The U.S. Supreme Court’s deadlock on President Barack Obama’s immigration plan has raised fears about the increased likelihood of deportation for the parents of millions of America’s K-12 schoolchildren.

While the president himself said that those parents aren’t likely to be caught up in immigration raids, the fear of having parents forcibly removed from the country could affect the well-being and development of millions of children, according to a report from the Migration Policy Institute and the Urban Institute, two Washington-based think tanks.

“The fear of deportation is ever present in these families,” the authors wrote. “Beyond shielding children and families from potentially substantial economic harm resulting from the deportation of the father, deferred action would alleviate the documented psychological, social, and developmental harms associated with having an unauthorized parent.”

The 37-page report estimated that 3.6 million undocumented immigrants were eligible for DAPA, with more than 1.6 million residents in Texas and California alone set to benefit.

In 2014, Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program (DAPA) eased longstanding concerns among educators about separating school-aged children from their parents and guardians who are undocumented. The order offered deportation reprieves and working papers to undocumented parents of children who are either U.S. citizens or have legal residency here and who have lived in the United States for at least five years.

Making the case that growing up with undocumented immigrant parents harms the well-being and development of children, the report cites several studies documenting their experience, including these:

  • Research that found children with unauthorized immigrant parents score poorly on cognitive learning tests as early as age 3.
  • Among children ages 7 to 10, those with undocumented immigrant parents scored significantly lower on math, reading, and spelling tests than those with legal immigrant parents.
  • Among Mexican-American young adults in Los Angeles, those who grew up with undocumented parents completed, on average, 1.25 fewer years of schooling than those with parents who entered the country legally or legalized after their arrival. That means students with undocumented parents are, on average, less likely to graduate high school and go on to college, said Randy Capps, director of research for the U.S. Program at the Migration Policy Institute.

These families are also less likely to access early-childhood-education programs such as Head Start, preschool, and subsidized child care, according to the report from the Migration Policy Institute and Urban Institute.

“Taken together, the effects of parental unauthorized status have implications for child health and development from infancy to adulthood,” the report authors wrote.

The court’s deadlock—which allows a lower court ruling that overturned the Obama administration to stand—does not affect the separate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, policy for some 7 million undocumented children and young adults who arrived as children in the U.S. and have lived here since 2007.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.