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On Immigration Executive Actions, Court Ignored Children, Brief Says

Child Rights
Children of Immigrants

Washington – A new legal brief argues that, in considering whether to enjoin the Obama Administration’s immigration executive actions, a federal court ignored the injunction’s harm to millions of children, the majority of whom are United States citizens. Led by the bipartisan children’s advocacy organization First Focus and the American Federation of Teachers, the amicus curiae brief was filed last night with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Texas v. United States of America. Prepared by Jenner & Block LLP, the brief is cosigned by seven other organizations and relies on new research on the potential benefits of immigration relief for children, conducted by University of Southern California (USC) and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).

“It’s simple: when the justice system ignores children, children are denied justice,” said First Focus Center for the Children of Immigrants Director Wendy Cervantes.

The State of Texas and several other states sued the federal government to block the Administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA provides deportation relief and work authorization for individuals who came to the U.S. as children, and DAPA provides similar relief for the parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children. In February, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas enjoined the DAPA and expanded DACA initiatives. The United States appealed that decision, and the advocates’ brief, submitted in support of the United States, asks the appeals court to vacate the injunction.

In considering the States’ motion for injunctive relief, the district court was required to consider not only the legal merit of the States’ argument, but also the impact an injunction would have on the public interest. The brief argues that the court erred by assessing only the public interest impact of a DAPA injunction on parents, while ignoring the impact on children of affected parents.

“Government actions have real consequences for children, and when government – an agency or a court – ignores those consequences, government fails to do its job,” said Cervantes.

The brief cites research released today by USC and UCLA scholars Roberto Suro, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, and Stephanie Canizales. Removing Insecurity: How American children will benefit from President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration finds that executive immigration actions would protect four million U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident children from trauma resulting from forced relocation to a foreign country or forced separation from one or more parents. It also finds that family stress and social stigma arising from the constant fear of deportation subjects children of undocumented parents to increased risk of serious harms, ranging from economic hardship and cognitive impairment to emotional and behavioral problems and negative self-perception that can have lifelong consequences. The brief argues that, by ignoring DAPA’s potential to alleviate serious harms to children, the trial court failed to complete an adequate public interest review.

“This research shows how children pay the price for our broken immigration system,” said Cervantes. “Professor Suro and his colleagues have shined a spotlight on the district court’s failings, but also on Congress’ failure to deliver immigration reform that works for children.”

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First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit