Undocumented Immigrants, Children and CCPA

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

Also, check out Dr. Sithanan­dam’s excel­lent Op-Ed pub­lished in the Bal­ti­more Sun.