Our Nation’s Values, Standing by Children of Immigrants

by Mayra E. Alvarez

The American story is inherently one of immigrants. Like many in our country, I, too, am a daughter of immigrants. My parents first came to the United States from Mexico some 40 years ago in search of a better future for their children. In fact, most immigrant families come here with the same motive. Many often leave behind loved ones and their hometown, ready to work hard for a piece of the American Dream and provide more for their children.

Across the nation, one quarter of all children—citizen and non-citizen alike—live in immigrant families. California is home to more immigrant children than any other state in the country. More than half of our 9.1 million children have at least one immigrant parent, and almost 1.5 million children have an unauthorized immigrant parent.

Last week, an Executive Order banning entry from seven Muslim-majority countries and halting refugee admissions was signed by President Trump and sent waves of fear to millions of immigrant families across the country, in contrast to the Administration’s statements that few are affected. The response to this Executive Order extended beyond our immigrant communities as protests erupted at international airports across the country with signs pushing back on the Order, denouncing its intent, and highlighting American values of inclusion and openness to the world.

The Executive Order, as well as the comments shared by Administration officials, is harmful to immigrant children and families. Children in mixed status families—those in which some members are legally residing while others are undocumented—are regularly faced with the fear that a parent or loved one could be deported, and undocumented immigrant children themselves, including unaccompanied minors, worry what will happen to them and the new life they were hoping to build. Toxic stress caused by this constant fear has a dangerous and detrimental impact on these children, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, aggression, and suicidal ideation. Furthermore, there is significant economic and social instability that is further aggravated for children with a parent’s deportation, with effects that include loss of housing, family separation, and material hardship. Every child should feel safe, accepted, and loved. They deserve the best that we as the adults in their lives can offer and this Executive Order does not reflect that.

The Children’s Partnership is proud to be part of a network of organizations across the country advocating for the health and well-being of all children, and we reaffirm our commitment to immigrant children and their families. Immigrants are part of the fabric of our society; they are our neighbors, our family members, and our friends.

This year, we have launched a series of community conversations to listen to the concerns of families and make sure our efforts reflect the needs of the communities we intend to serve. Our Let’s Talk. Protecting Your Right to Health Care. series is working closely with schools to offer a space for families to ask questions, express concerns, and learn about ways to get involved in the effort to defend their health care. In the middle of January, we held a Let’s Talk forum at Victor Valley High School in Victorville, California. Over 65 people attended, including Pedro. Pedro is a father who wakes up every morning at 3 a.m. and drives two hours to work a labor job so he can provide for his family. He pays his taxes, is a contributing member of society and has put 3 children through college—a life that is seemingly the American Dream realized. Yet, Pedro was at our forum that evening. Instead of resting for another long day of labor work, he was with us because his family needs basic access to health care and he’s worried.

At The Children’s Partnership, we believe our responsibility is to bring the voices of people like Pedro into the offices of our elected officials who are expected to represent the best interests of these families as their constituents. Our role is to share with you, our partners, friends, and family, what more we can do together to stand with all children and their families and continue to advocate for their health and well-being.

Over the next few weeks, we are closely monitoring activity at the federal level to ensure the incredible advances we have made for children’s health are not reversed or reduced, nor actions taken to hinder families’ ability to care for their children. We implore the Trump Administration to uphold the fundamental values of America and our time-honored tradition of welcoming immigrants, especially those seeking refuge. The Children’s Partnership will continue to fight for all families that call this country home to ensure every child has the bright future they deserve.

 

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