It’s well established that children of immigrants worried about their parents being deported have higher levels of toxic stress, which can be damaging to their health and development.

Now, a new law passed in the House gives them another reason to worry. Called “Kate’s Law,” the bill allows for stricter sentencing of undocumented immigrants who commit minor, nonviolent offenses.

Essentially, it criminalizes those who pose no threat to public safety and have strong ties to the U.S., or are fleeing unsafe conditions in their home countries. It affects children in families that are looking for a better, safer environment.

Asylum-seekers in recent years have included large numbers of kids and families rather than single adults, according to a report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

This trend is due to the dramatic increase in immigration from Central America, with swelling numbers of families and children fleeing violence and poverty to seek asylum in the U.S. (more than 100,000 kids since 2014). Over the past few years, the number of asylum-seekers from Central America apprehended at the border outnumbered those who originated in Mexico – a new pattern in immigration, according to the CBP report.

Under Kate’s Law, families seeking asylum would be subject to expanded maximum sentences as punishment for multiple attempts to enter the country, even as they flee violence in their home countries. The law would largely affect those who have strong ties to the U.S. such as immigrants who have children or family already living in America.

The law would also increase maximum sentences to up to 10 years for those who attempt to re-enter the country more than three times. This would apply even for immigrants who have no prior criminal convictions. Those who make multiple attempts at re-entry after deportation are often immigrants who have children still residing in the U.S.

The enhanced sentences for re-entry outlined in Kate’s Law would disproportionately affect these undocumented parents, who make up nearly half (49.5%) of those who make multiple attempts to re-enter the United States illegally, according to statistics from 2013.

Children of immigrants are already trying to escape violence, poverty, abuse, crime, and corruption. The prospect of parents being incarcerated if they attempt to return after deportation threatens to take this stress to new levels, with detrimental long-term effects on kids. The U.S. Senate should do right by these kids and not pass this harmful bill, which criminalizes parents and families who pose no threat to their communities and makes kids’ lives worse.

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