Implications of Immigration Enforcement on Children in the U.S.

Research Briefing:

Implication of Immigration Enforcement on Children in the U.S.

February 17, 2012

Good morning, and welcome to ACF.

Today we have an opportunity to focus on a problem that is one of the central concerns of our time and very clearly affects the work we do at ACF to promote economic and social well being and protect the vulnerable. 

We’re privileged to have a distinguished panel of leaders and researchers with us.  They bring considerable expertise to the questions involved in immigration enforcement and its effects on children.

I’d like to especially mention our HHS in-house expert on these issues—Ajay Chaudry.  He’s the new Deputy Assistant Secretary of HHS’ planning and evaluation office.  Welcome, Ajay.

I want to thank the panel and all of you in the audience—including regional office staff-- for your interest.  I’m looking forward to a rich discussion.

Recently, the President held a briefing for Latino journalists at the White House.  The issue of family separation among immigrants came up.

He affirmed that it is a real problem and said, “I've instructed the Department of Homeland Security and all the agencies that as a basic principle, if parents are being deported, they have access to their kids. They have to be able to make arrangements, so that the children can go with them or be left with relatives.”

The President acknowledged that the system isn’t functioning perfectly now, but he emphasized that we have to fix it-- and make sure children are not separated from their parents without due process.

The underlying message from the President is that this Administration recognizes the challenges that immigrant families face.

He believes that we all have a job to do and a role to play—we must work together to develop policies that address parental rights and family unity.  

Ultimately, we know that stronger immigration laws and a 21st century immigration system can help us overcome what is undeniably a complex challenge.

Until then, we have a moral imperative to act with a sense of urgency and come up with common sense solutions now. 

Every child deserves a chance at a successful future, and this Administration is committed to putting our children on the path to achieving their fullest potential.

That’s what President Obama emphasized in his State of the Union address in January, and that’s what both the Department and ACF are all about—creating an America that’s built to last for ALL of its children.

I believe that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and ACF are key players in realizing this vision of America.

We have compassionate leaders that can bring significant resources to bear on behalf of families, and supporting families and children is at the very core of our mission.

At ACF, we’ve developed a series of initiatives that provide a detailed roadmap of how to use our resources to help America’s families become safe, healthy, and economically secure.  And we look forward to working with you—no one agency can do this alone!

My favorite part of this job is getting out and seeing the people who give reality to the statistics we so often cite.

I saw up close how immigration enforcement affects children very recently.

Thanks to our colleagues at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), I visited an immigration detention facility in the Miami area. 

I heard directly from ICE officials and parents alike.

I met with ICE representatives who are working to implement guidelines that address the issue of family separation.

I’m happy that we’re making a lot of progress in this area.  You’ll hear more about it today.

During this visit, I also had the special opportunity to meet a mother of a 2 ½ year old boy who needs an urgent medical procedure.

Unfortunately, this mother’s detention is delaying her son’s treatment. Even though she is a detainee, she has not committed a serious crime.

So here is a stark portrait of the complex challenge that threatens this child’s chance—and that of many others-- of achieving a safe, healthy, and successful future.  He is a child in need—a U.S. citizen.

His mother wants nothing more than to be given the opportunity to care for her son and to get him the treatment he needs.

We have to be able to look at this issue from the lens of children.  How do we protect their future while still enforcing the law?

This is the balance that we must strike.  Fortunately, working with ICE staff, we have been able to elevate this mother’s case for review.

I am happy report that ICE has decided to exercise prosecutorial discretion. This means that the mother has been granted a stay of removal from the U.S.  She will be released from detention and can return home to her family! 

This is the kind of collaboration that’s critical to reaching the Administration’s goal of implementing humanitarian guidelines.  All perspectives are invaluable, and all perspectives are needed. 

Which is why we’re meeting today.  We all have a stake in this issue—and I hope that by acting as partners, we can find compassionate ways of dealing with thorny problems. 

Finally, I want to acknowledge and thank the members of ACF senior leadership who are here today.

I’d like to give my colleague, Bryan Samuels, the Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), the opportunity to say a few words before our panel is introduced.

Again, welcome and thank you for being here today. Bryan?

Back to Top