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Susan Hibbard 
Executive Director, BUILD Initiative

BUILD Initiative Saddened by Further Delay of Immigration Executive Actions

Yesterday, a panel of three judges of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to uphold a block to President Obama’s immigration executive actions announced last November. This latest decision effectively upholds an earlier ruling by a federal judge that halted the Administration’s implementation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program. DAPA, which was set to launch last week, would have granted relief from deportation and work authorization for up to three years for undocumented immigrant parents who have a child who is a US citizen, maintained continuous residence in the U.S., and passed a criminal record check. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that nearly 4 million U.S. citizen children with undocumented, immigrant parents could have benefited from this new program.

Young children pay the highest cost for the continued delay of DAPA implementation. Mounting evidence shows that children of undocumented immigrants are suffering acute harm from the real or perceived threat of deportation of their family members. In fact, negative child development consequences are evident as early as 24 months of age. The trauma inflicted now can take a lifetime of resources to handle. Unfortunately, what should be considered of utmost importance, the health and well-being of these children, is not central to the legal debates that are deciding the fate of the DAPA program.

Last year, the BUILD Initiative began an effort to raise awareness of the implications of immigration policy for the early childhood field. BUILD has presented at several national conferences and conducted trainings at the local level to create the space and opportunity for professionals in the field to reflect on the impact of immigration policy on young children, and learn about the important role that early childhood professionals can play in helping immigrant families benefit from the DAPA program, and other forms of immigration relief. Through this work, we have heard firsthand accounts of the hardship for children and families – children who are not picked up from child care because a parent has been detained by immigration officials; a home visitor who shared that her families are reluctant to participate in her program out of concern that they will have to flee their community at a moment’s notice; an infant with special needs who cannot have a needed medical procedure because his mother was deported and his father cannot take time off work to care for him after surgery. These are just a few of the stories that underscore why this is a defining moment and a crucial set of issues in our field and for our work.

As an organization, we remain steadfast in our commitment to educate the early childhood community about the deep connection between immigrant policy, family wellbeing, and thriving children. We support the many professionals in our field who are on the front lines of this issue.

We also want to take this opportunity to encourage others in our field to commit to ongoing learning and action on behalf of immigrant families. Now is the time to get educated about resources at the local, state, and national level that can help support immigrant families. DAPA is delayed, but this is only a setback. We must prepare to help families benefit from the eventual relief from deportation that is sure to come, and take advantage of the options that currently exist. Indeed, our nation’s history has taught us that, if we all do our part, a just cause eventually prevails.

Special thanks to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Goldman Family Foundation, and the Alliance for Early Success for their support of BUILD’s work related to racial equity, immigrant children, and dual language learners and to Miriam Calderon, who has long-supported BUILD’s thinking and work in these areas.

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