Often overlooked in the immigration debate is the impact of our federal immigration policies on the systems that serve children and families, including the child welfare system. Our state partner in Texas, The Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP), recently published a report on this issue titled “Undocumented and Abused: A Texas Case Study of Children in the Child Protective Services System”.

Using Texas as a case study, CPPP examines who these undocumented children are and the importance of ensuring that state child welfare agencies are free to determine the best way to repatriate a child or file for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) without interference from the federal immigration process. Additionally, this report discusses improvements to the SIJS process applied to undocumented children in the Texas child welfare system. Lastly, this paper notes that federal immigration and state child welfare laws should be aligned for two reasons— to provide both accountability and proper financing to an extremely vulnerable population.

In addition to recommendations for improving the SIJS process within the Texas child welfare system, other policy recommendations from this report include:

  • The Department of Homeland Security should implement a policy to ensure that Customs and Border Control does not interfere with caseworkers transporting undocumented children in state custody to needed services and care.
  • The federal government should contribute to the cost of foster care and Medicaid for undocumented children. At the very least, when an undocumented child secures Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, the state should be able to retroactively claim reimbursement for foster care and Medicaid as indicated in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, in addition to securing federal financing in the future.

Children who obtain Special Immigrant Status and age out of the child welfare system should also be exempt from the five-year ban on eligibility for federally subsidized social programs. This way, when these children leave state care, they can still access the support they need.

To learn more about this topic:

– Read the report by the Center for Public Policy Priorities entitled, “Undocumented and Abused: A Texas Case Study of Children in the Child Protective Services System“.

– Review the series of papers and fact sheets published by First Focus and the Migration and Child Welfare Network entitled, “Caught Between Systems: The Intersection of Immigration and Child Welfare Policies”.