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Implications of Immigration Enforcement Activities for the Well-Being of Children in Immigrant Families: A Review of the Literature

Reports
September 2015

Implications of Immigration Enforcement Activities for the Well-Being of Children in Immigrant Families: A Review of the Literature

Rising immigration enforcement in the U.S. interior over the past decade increased the chances that the estimated 5.3 million children living with unauthorized immigrant parents, the vast majority of them born in the United States, could experience the deportation of a parent. 

This MPI-Urban Institute report reviews the evidence on the impacts of parental deportation on children, and on their needs for health and social services. The literature mostly dates from a period of peak enforcement: 2009 through 2013, when there were nearly 4 million deportations from the United States. While data on parental removals during this period are limited, perhaps half a million were of parents of U.S.-citizen children.

The economic and social instability that generally accompanies unauthorized status is further aggravated for children with a parent’s deportation, with effects including psychological trauma, material hardship, residential instability, family dissolution, increased use of public benefits, and, among boys, aggression. At the extreme end, some families became permanently separated as parents lose custody of or contact with their children.

Table of Contents 

Introduction

Impacts of Parental Detention and Deportation on Children

Broad Impacts on a Large Segment of the Hispanic Child Population

Impacts on Children of Unauthorized Immigrants

Short-Term Impacts of Parental Apprehension, Detention, and Deportation

Long-Term Impacts of Parental Apprehension, Detention, and Deportation

Children Leaving the United States

Family Dissolution and Child Welfare System Involvement

Meeting the Needs of Children with Detained and Deporated Parents

Needs of Children in the Child Welfare System

Food, Shelter, Health Care, and Other Basic Needs

Mental Health Care Needs

Supporting Children in Public Schools and Early Education Programs

U.S. Immigration Enforcement and Changes in the Composition of Unauthorized Populations

Unauthorized Population at Risk for Deportation

Discretion in Deporting Parents

State and Local Partnerships in Immigration Enforcement

Deportation of Returning Parents Apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Unanswered Questions and Avenues for Future Research