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Fear of deportation causes children of undocumented to suffer more stress, anxiety and other health problems

Anna Challet | 6/19/2013, 2:07 p.m.

The current Senate immigration reform bill includes some provisions that prioritize family unity and modify current law to make sure that immigration judges are given discretion to consider hardship to citizen or permanent resident children when deciding whether or not to deport a parent.

But many advocates believe that the current bill does not do enough to keep parents and children together. HIP’s report includes recommendations for promoting family-focused reform to a greater extent within the bill, including the elimination of mandatory detention.

Wendy Cervantes, vice president of Immigration and Child Rights Policy at First Focus, a child advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., points out that though the current bill “offers real promise,” it does not include the elimination of mandatory detention laws, which can result in the arbitrary detention of undocumented parents.

HIP also recommends that the Department of Homeland Security end the 287(g) program and modify the Secure Communities program, both programs that create partnerships between state and local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Initiatives like 287(g) can result in the targeting of individuals “who are not the focus of those kinds of laws,” according to Farhang, rather than those who pose a risk to public safety.

Farhang anticipates a “tough battle” ahead in protecting family unity and the health of children of undocumented immigrants, particularly in the House of Representatives, which is anticipated to take a harder line than the Senate in crafting legislation for comprehensive immigration reform.

“This debate can’t just be about getting reform done,” said Cervantes. “It also has to be about getting reform right for children.”

New America Media