Trump’s immigration policies threaten children and our collective future
Editor’s note: The Coalition on Human Needs is participating in the Children’s Blog Carnival, hosted and sponsored by the Children’s Leadership Council. Today’s post is authored by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). Previous carnival blogs have focused on the plight of Puerto Rican children in the wake of Hurricane Maria; “grandfamilies,” grandparents or other relatives raising children; the recent March for Our Lives; the importance of dental health for children; and the link between quality child care and brain development in infants.
Since its beginning, the Trump Administration has attacked immigrant communities with a range of misguided proposals and executive orders that undermine civil rights and terrify families. These efforts are having devastating effects—both immediately and potentially longer term—on the health and well-being of our nation’s youngest residents.
Documenting the harm
Two new reports issued by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) examine how the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy priorities are wreaking havoc in the lives of young children. Through interviews with more than 100 child care and early education professionals in six states, along with focus groups with dozens of parents, CLASP found pervasive effects of these threats on children. The reports detail disturbing signs and behaviors of distress, as well as serious risks to young children’s healthy development. Because of their isolation and fear, immigrant families are reluctant to seek nutrition assistance, health care, and early care and education programs, which is compromising the well-being of their children. Examples included a special-needs child being pulled out of recommended treatment, early childhood programs unable to fill their classrooms despite burgeoning need, and families declining nutrition assistance.
New threat on the horizon
A new federal regulation being drafted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would push kids, parents and other members of low-income immigrant households further into the shadows by dramatically altering the “public charge” provision of federal immigration law. The draft proposal, leaked to the media earlier this year, aims to punish immigrant families who seek access to health, nutrition, and education programs for themselves and their children. Under the leaked draft, any person whose family is served by human services programs—like Head Start, Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps)—could be denied a visa or a green card. The proposed rule would expand scrutiny to include the applicant’s family–including U.S. citizen children. If the draft provisions are finalized, parents would be forced to make impossible choices between putting food on the table for their children or obtaining secure immigration status. We know that access to preventative health care and nutrition helps improve childhood outcomes, which extends to better education and employment outcomes in adulthood. Creating barriers to essential programs would have lifelong damaging consequences for immigrant families’ millions of children, 88 percent of whom are U.S. citizens.
Increased immigration enforcement and anti-immigrant rhetoric is already deterring immigrant parents—documented and undocumented alike—from seeking medical help for their children or enrolling them in critical programs. The Trump Administration’s dangerous proposal would deny more children access to lifesaving care and drive up poverty among families with young children who are vital to our country’s future prosperity. Children of immigrants represent one quarter of our increasingly diverse U.S. child population and will make up a critical segment of the future American workforce. Preventing these kids from having their most fundamental needs met and driving them further into poverty will only serve to undermine our economic prospects for generations to come.
The draft notice of proposed rulemaking that was leaked is just the beginning of the regulatory process. The next step is for the rule to be sent to the Office of Management and Budget and then to be published as a proposal in the Federal Register. Then, the public would have 30 days to 60 days to make comments and pose questions on the published rule. For now, immigrant families should continue to seek benefits for which they are eligible. As currently drafted, the rule would not be retroactive and—even if finalized— some immigrants are not subject to the public charge determination.
During this unprecedented time of attacks on immigrant families, advocates must come together and reject this dangerous and shortsighted proposal, and others like it, which seek to divide our communities and undermine low-income, working families. Advocates can do so by making comments when and if the proposed rule is published. Ultimately, our nation’s leaders should be pushing for policies that help all our children thrive—regardless of where their parents were born—for their sake and for that of the entire country.