Image Credit: Max Pixel

President Trump’s new immigration enforcement policies have widened the definition of priorities for deportation. Mothers and fathers who are now targeted for deportation through this expanded definition rightfully fear sudden separation from their U.S. born children. This fear drives immigrant children and families away from the normalcy of their daily lives and into the shadows.

There have been many reports of parents seeking help to make alternative arrangements in case their children are suddenly without guardians. According to an article in the L.A. Times parents are “finding trusted people to sign power of attorney papers to ensure their U.S.-born children could continue to thrive in the country if they’re deported.” Although the number of deportations under the Obama Administration was high, there were still protections in place that required Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to work collaboratively with child welfare systems to ensure smoother transition arrangements for families with children. The trauma of losing a parent to deportation has been documented to have severe negative impacts on a child’s well-being.

School districts are witnessing the effects of these new policies. Children and parents are fearful that school attendance could lead to deportation. One immigration advocate told CBS News that, “Many immigrants are now afraid to send their children to school and afraid to go to church or work or the hospital.” Patrick Murphy, Superintendent of Arlington Public Schools, wrote a letter to fearful families in his district to reassure them that children in their care would be safe.

In addition to these concerns immigrant parents are canceling their children’s enrollment for Medicaid and other forms of public assistance in an attempt to conceal their identity and personal information. In California, “We’re hearing from a lot of counties that they’re getting calls from immigrant families who are receiving benefits, or whose children are citizens and may be receiving benefits, asking to be disenrolled,” said Cathy Senderling-McDonald, deputy executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California in Sacramento.  The health and well-being of these children cannot be addressed if there is a constant fear for their safety.

Some families are no longer attending their local church services, and others are afraid to go to the grocery store in fear that even a broken taillight could mean they never see their children again.  According to Betsy Plum, director of special projects for the New York Immigration Coalition, an advocacy group, “There’s a real isolationist reflex that’s happening now.”

Beyond the national security rhetoric of these immigration orders, we must see the human faces and stories behind the statistics. This type of immigration enforcement will play a profound role in the United States economy, education system and workforce in ways that cannot be realized today.