Contacts: Archana Pyati ([email protected] / (202) 258-2133); Maya Hixson ([email protected])

Washington, D.C. — Today, child health and development experts, educators, labor leaders, children and family advocates, and impacted parents called on President Biden to protect the well-being of children in mixed-status immigrant families by using existing pathways for administrative immigration relief to keep parents with their children and reunify families that have been separated. Over five million children — the vast majority of whom are United States citizens themselves — live in mixed-status families with at least one undocumented parent. 

The briefing follows a letter sent this morning to the Biden administration in which more than two dozen leading children’s advocacy organizations urged the administration to expand a policy known as “parole in place” for spouses of U.S. citizens. The policy would grant immediate deportation relief to eligible individuals, as well as access to work permits. The letter also calls for a family reunification program that could allow spouses of U.S. citizens who have been separated from their families to enter the U.S. and reunify with their loved ones.

The letter cites research that documents how separation from a parent due to detention or deportation significantly hinders child development, particularly for young children. It also details the benefits of the stability and upward mobility that children gain when their parents can access lawful status and work permits. 

The signatories of the letter are members of the Children Thrive Action Network (CTAN), a national network dedicated to defending and supporting children in immigrant families. CTAN members also sent a letter last year to the administration calling for expansion of a policy known as “cancellation of removal” that would provide lawful status and work permits for certain parents who are caring for U.S.-citizen children.

Jason Rochester, Georgia-based impacted parent with American Families United, said: 

“My son Ashton has had to battle cancer without having his mother home with him here in Georgia. He has lived over half of his life without his mom – American children across this nation in mixed-status families deserve freedom from this pain and separation anxiety. I’m urging President Biden to grant relief to American families like mine.” 

Kali Pliego, Minnesota-based impacted parent with American Families United, said: 

“As a mother I can tell you what any mother knows: the chronic stress and fear that a child’s parent will be taken away from them is devastating to their mental and emotional health. It is the maternal instinct to protect our babies that drives the mothers of American Families United to continue pushing for relief until all our children are safe from unnecessary family separations. As a US citizen, I urge President Biden in the strongest possible terms to grant work permits to long-term immigrants like my husband so that American children across this nation don’t have to carry this pain with them ever again.” 

Wendy Cervantes, Director of Immigration and Immigrant Families at the Center for Law and Social Policy said:

“No child should live in fear of losing a parent or be forced to grow up without a loving caregiver. Yet, more than 5 million children–the vast majority of them U.S. citizens–live with this harsh reality every day, with severe consequences to their healthy development. President Biden must deliver on his promise to our community by using every administrative tool possible to bring stability and peace of mind to children in mixed-status immigrant families and move us towards an immigration system that promotes family unity and child well-being.” 

Claudia Tristán, Immigration Campaign Director at MomsRising / MamásConPoder said: 

“With more than a million undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens we know that many of them are moms. Mother’s Day was yesterday and as moms we’re thinking about all the immigrant spouses and families living with fear of deportation and family separation. All children deserve to live in peace and free of fear of family separation. We know solutions are within our reach to keep children and parents together and to fix our broken immigration system. Too many of those children are at risk.”

Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba, PhD, MPH, Executive Director of Children’s HealthWatch said:

“The evidence is clear – the well-being and presence of parents is essential to the optimal health, growth, and cognitive and socioemotional development of children, especially in early childhood. Our research demonstrates that to take care of children’s health, we must take care of parents’ health, too. For mixed status families, this includes ensuring that the family unit is not disrupted. Policies that keep families intact, like expanded Parole-in-Place, are evidence-based child health interventions.” 

Dr. Nancy Vera, President of Corpus Christi American Federation of Teachers said:

“We must uplift, educate and mobilize our families and community members to push forward the immigration process currently proposed by some advocacy organizations to regularize our immigrants for the sake of peace and for our children, our lives and our future.”

Noel Candelaria, Secretary-Treasurer of the National Education Association said: 

“The National Education Association stands firm in the conviction that every student, irrespective of their zip code or country of origin, is entitled to the promise of an exceptional public education. Every student’s right to an education must be upheld regardless of status. Therefore, we call on the Biden administration to expand ‘parole in place’ for spouses of U.S. citizens. We also ask the Biden administration to establish a family reunification program that could allow spouses of U.S. citizens who have been separated from their families for years to enter the U.S. and reunify with their loved ones including educators and students currently in our nation’s classrooms.”

Mayra E. Alvarez, President of The Children’s Partnership (CA) said: 

“Every child requires the love and support of a parent or caregiver to grow up healthy. Not having that can lead to high levels of toxic stress, anxiety, and other physical and mental health issues that can take an unnecessary toll on young children and stay with them as they age. The time is always right to do all we can to preserve family unity and use everything in our power to minimize or eliminate any harmful impacts on children in mixed status families.” 


Categories: Press Release