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Letter to the House of Representatives regarding the impact of immigration raids on children

May 27, 2008

Dear Chairman Miller:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to submit the following comments for the record in conjunction with the recent Workforce Protections Subcommittee Hearing: "ICE Workplace Raids: Their Impact on U.S. Children, Families, and Communities." We thank the Subcommittee for holding a hearing on this important issue.

NEA members have long been concerned about the impact of immigration raids on children and staff in public schools. We have been working closely with our affiliates and other groups to ensure that states and school districts adopt and vigorously enforce policies that protect the right of undocumented immigrant children and the children of undocumented immigrant parents to obtain a free public education in a safe and supportive environment.

Recent enforcement efforts by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) have resulted in the arrest, confinement, and deportation of many undocumented workers. Unfortunately, these raids have created challenges for the children left behind and the public schools they attend. For example:

  • The raids have resulted in a significant drop in school attendance. School administrators report that children of parents affected by the raids missed between one-third and one-half of the week following a raid.
  • Although attendance increases within two or three weeks, the initial absenteeism can have a long-term negative impact. A longitudinal study conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation indicates that school absence in kindergarten is associated with lower academic performance in first grade among all children, and more significantly for English Language Learners and poor children. The longer term relationship to academic performance depends upon income. Research indicates that chronic absence in kindergarten is associated with low fifth grade achievement for poor children but not their better-off peers.
  • Teachers and school officials report that some of the children displayed emotional trauma signs of distress upon their return to school particularly if their parents, relatives, or acquaintance were directly involved in the raid. In such instances, school personnel are reporting difficulty in maintaining the students' attention on class work.

NEA members are working with parents and school administrators to develop systems to help ensure a safe place for children in the event of a raid. We are also working to identify and provide the additional academic and counseling services necessary to address the disruption the children are likely to experience.

NEA supports the Families First Enforcement Act (H.R. 3980) introduced by Congresswoman Solis (D-CA). This legislation will ensure that ICE raids are humane and include protections for children. Specifically, the bill:

  • Requires ICE to afford access to state social service agencies to screen and interview detainees;
  • Ensures that when possible those who have been detained are within the jurisdiction of the local ICE field office; and
  • Addresses humanitarian needs of pregnant women, nursing mothers, caretakers of special needs children and sole caretakers of minor children.

Companion legislation (S. 2074) has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Kerry (D-MA). Neither the House nor Senate Judiciary Committee has taken any action on these bills.

We thank you again for holding a hearing on these very important issues. We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure maximum protection for children impacted by ICE raids.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy