Check out this piece from Lavanya Sithanandam, pediatrician and travel doctor in Takoma Park and SAALT Board member about undocumented immigrants, citizen children and the Child Citizen Protection Act:
The non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center released a report yesterday entitled ‘A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States’ . The report reveals that 4 million American children in the United States have at least one undocumented parent, which is up dramatically from 2.7 million children in 2003. Children of unauthorized immigrants now account for about one in 15 elementary and secondary school students nationwide. One third of these children live in poverty and close to half (45%) of these children are without health insurance.
As a practicing pediatrician in Takoma Park, MD, these statistics are more than numbers to me. Some of my patients that I treat in my own office are included in this data. What these percentages and statistics do not convey is how deeply entrenched these children and their families have become in this country. Despite this, I have noticed a disturbing trend over the past two years, with a growing number of my patients having to deal with the detention and possible deportation of a parent, friend, or neighbor. This is a nightmare scenario for anyone to have to cope with, let alone a young child.
In response to this situation, I have been working with SAALT and several other non-profit organizations such as Families For Freedom to shed light on the plight of such children and to help them stay united with their families. This week is a ‘Week of Action’ in support of HR 182 or the Child Citizen Protection Act, which will give immigration judges discretion in deportation cases involving the separation of families with children who are U.S. citizens. Currently, judges have their hands tied and are forced to deport many parents unless they meet an ‘extreme hardship’ standard– a difficult standard for most to meet. I ask that you call your local congressmen and ask them to sign on to this bill. Also please try to document any experiences that you may be facing with the detention and/or deportation of a loved one. In my own practice I am asking my patients to draw pictures of broken hearts (like the one above) to represent the pain and suffering these families endure when one or both parents are deported. I hope to show these drawings and letters that I collect to my local representatives as part of SAALT’s annual advocacy day next week.
Takoma Park Pediatrics Patient, Age 7