Media contact: Archana Pyati, [email protected] 

Washington, D.C., June 18, 2024 – Members of the Children Thrive Action Network applaud and welcome steps the Biden Administration has taken today to create additional pathways for legal status and work authorization for two groups of immigrants who strengthen and support American families, communities, and society: spouses of U.S. citizens and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and other undocumented youth, known as “Dreamers.”

For undocumented immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens, the administration will now enable them to qualify for parole in place and stay with their families as they apply for permanent residency. Previously, they had to return to their home countries to adjust their status, often enduring years of separation from children and spouses and sometimes permanent separation. They will also now be authorized to work in the U.S., enabling them to better provide for their families. 

By some estimates, there are more than 1 million undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens living in the U.S., and there are more than 5 million children living with at least one undocumented parent. According to recent polling, large majorities of voters support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented caregivers and spouses of U.S. citizens. A vast body of research finds that when children are separated from their parents or caregivers for an extended period of time, their development is hindered. Research also shows that children benefit when their families achieve stability and economic mobility gained through lawful status and work permits. 

For DACA recipients, new guidance on the D-3 waiver program will allow eligible DACA recipients and other Dreamers a streamlined way to apply for employment visas. Tens of thousands of Dreamers will now be eligible for work visas and a pathway to permanent status, enabling them to utilize their skills and degrees to pursue careers and contribute to the U.S. workforce. This policy removes the uncertainty facing many DACA recipients, their families, and other undocumented youth who have been locked out of the DACA program. There are more than a quarter million U.S. citizen children with at least one parent who has DACA.

Several CTAN members commended the announcement:

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

“Today’s announcement represents decades of hard work from immigrant communities, organizers, and advocates who are committed to ensuring the dignity, safety, and well-being of immigrant families across the country. Immigrants and their children, the vast majority of whom are U.S. citizens, deserve the opportunity to live free from the fear of separation and thrive in the country they call home. Providing work authorization and permanent relief to spouses of U.S. citizens and Dreamers is a smart policy move that will promote better child outcomes and help build a brighter future for our country as a whole. We are grateful to the Biden Administration for taking this important step, and we urge them to consider all other administrative levers to provide relief to mixed-status families.”

Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, President and CEO of Children’s Defense Fund, said:

“With the parole in place executive order, President Biden will provide the estimated 5 million children in mixed-status families with desperately needed relief from the perpetual dread of an undocumented parent’s deportation. The EO is not just humane immigration policy; it is a step toward building a nation where all children and young people grow up with dignity, hope, and joy.”

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

“There’s a robust evidence base demonstrating that having a parent present in the household who is also healthy and well is vital to the optimal health, growth, and cognitive and socioemotional development of children, especially in early childhood. Our research demonstrates that if we care about children’s health, we must take care of parents’ health, too. For mixed status families, this includes ensuring that the family unit is not broken apart. Policies that keep families intact, like expanded parole in place and the D-3 waiver program, are evidence-based child health interventions.”

Linda Corchado, Senior Director of Immigration at CHILDREN AT RISK said:

“In America, our immigration policies should not separate children from their parents. The relief that the Biden administration is championing for children takes significant steps forward to lessen their trauma, in turn supporting their educational progress, development, and well-being. Every child in this country matters, and today we celebrate this win for kids.”

Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus On Children said:

“Millions of children in the U.S. live in a constant state of fear – the fear of losing a parent or growing up without a loving caregiver due to deportation. This isn’t just a harsh reality; it is a crisis that harms child development. To prioritize children’s health, they need a stable and nurturing environment to thrive. We applaud the Biden Administration’s expansion of parole in place, ensuring more children in mixed-status families can stay together with their parents or caregivers. We urge the administration to continue using every available tool to build a just and humane immigration system that puts child well-being at the forefront.”

Astou Thiane, Director of Policy & Advocacy at ImmSchools, said:

“We applaud the Biden Administration’s affirmative relief announcement, which provides a much needed life line to mixed-status families. Millions of U.S. citizen children across our country will feel the stabilizing relief from their parents and loved ones being  protected from deportation, having the work permits they need to put food and necessities on the table, and pathways to permanently adjust their status. We call on the administration to continue to prioritize actions that keep immigrant families safe and together.”

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

“Every child requires the love and support of a parent or caregiver to grow up healthy. Nearly half of California’s 9 million children are part of immigrant families, and 1 in 5 live in mixed-status families. We must do everything we can to preserve family unity and minimize or eliminate any harmful impacts on children in mixed status families. This expansion of the federal parole in place policy is an important step forward toward making sure families stay together. We thank the Biden administration and urge them to continue its commitment to child well-being by working toward a pathway to permanent relief.”

Anne Kelsey, Senior Policy Analyst for Disability Rights at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, said:

“All children deserve to grow up with loving caregivers and free from the threat of separation. Children with disabilities and complex health issues are particularly vulnerable to the harms of forced separation from their parents. We applaud the Biden Administration’s decision to expand pro-family immigration policies, like parole in place for spouses of U.S. citizens, that keep families together and help keep children with disabilities safe and supported in their communities.”

Categories: Press Release