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Failing Families: How Current Immigration Enforcement Hurts Children

74170262DM014_Immigrant_GroLast week, the Baltimore Sun featured an op-ed on immigration enforcement and its impact on children. Lavanya Sithanandam, a member of South Asian Americans Leading Together, is a practicing physician and wrote about her own personal experience with children whose families have been victims of immigration raids.

When I walked into the exam room, I knew something was wrong. My 8-year old patient, usually an extroverted, charming boy, was angry. He sat with his arms crossed and refused to look at me. His exhausted mother recounted how one week ago, her husband, after arriving home from a 12-hour shift at work, had been arrested in front of his children and taken away in handcuffs. He was now sitting in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Frederick. The mother asked me to evaluate her son for a one-week history of poor appetite, difficulty with sleeping, and wheezing.

Sithandam emphasizes that many of the children who suffer because of immigration raids are citizens of the United States and “Yet these children often experience what no U.S. citizen (or any child, for that matter) should. They live in constant fear of abandonment because they have seen and heard of neighbors and family members being picked up and deported within days.”

The future for families like my 8-year-old patient’s looks grim. My patient’s suffering will probably have no influence on his father’s deportation proceedings, given the high legal standards of “extreme hardship” that must be met in order for his father to stay with his family. The boy will most likely be forced to start a new life in a country he has never even visited.

Immigration policy is complicated and emotionally charged, but punishing citizen children should be at the bottom of ICE’s priorities. It is time to once again consider a fair and comprehensive approach to immigration reform.

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted last week “Taking children from their parents is un-American”. It is time to end the raids on our families and communities and push for comprehensive immigration reform. It will be reform, not raids, that will keep families together and ensure a bright future for our children.