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Immigration presents unique issues in child welfare. Many children in the United States have at least one parent who is considered to be undocumented. Recent immigration raids have focused attention on issues such as family preservation, health and mental health, and stress. When children are separated from parents, they face short- and long-term psychological damage, including depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, feelings of abandonment, and suicidal thoughts. At the child welfare agency level, challenges include shortages of translators and properly trained and culturally competent staff, programs, and services.

CWLA Presents at Capitol Hill Briefing on Immigration Raids

On September 23, 2008, CWLA Vice President of Policy and Public Affairs Linda Spears spoke at the Congressional briefing on the impact of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service raids on immigrant families. The briefing was hosted by Representative Hilda Solis (D-CA), who introduced The Families First Enforcement Act (H.R. 3980) in 2007. The legislation would ensure humane treatment of individuals during and after immigrant raids, allow them access to social services and legal orientation presentations, and require Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide relatives with information on detainees' whereabouts.

Spears noted CWLA's commitment to calling for a White House Conference on Children in 2010 to address many issues facing children today, including the child labor and immigration issues brought to light in the most recent immigration raid in Postville, Iowa--issues just as pressing nearly a century after the first White House Conference on Children.

Spears stressed the damaging long- and short-term effects of trauma on children who experience separation from their parents and the inability of our child welfare system to deal with disrupted immigrant families effectively due to a shortage of bilingual and culturally competent staff.

She pointed out that lack of coordination and knowledge-sharing among government and community agencies, and resource barriers for undocumented workers, worsen the negative effects of immigrant raids on children and families. She stressed the importance of ongoing contact and information sharing for child welfare caseworkers and community resources aware of children's existing support systems to avoid unnecessary removals.

Spears stressed the importance of family-centered child welfare and asserted that immigration authorities and child welfare agencies must keep the child's best interest--safety, permanency, and well-being--foremost in all decisions concerning immigrant children.

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