The inability of the U.S. government
to resolve the status of undocumented
immigrants is forcing innocent
children into the shadows and
undermining the immigrant dream
of social and economic integration.
By Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco
The U.S.-born children of immigrants, and newcomers who arrive at an early age, have deep roots in their communities. Regardless of whether their parents “have papers” or not, these children and youth attend U.S. schools, learn English and develop an emerging
American identity. But for children from households lacking documentation, their or their parents’ status hangs over their daily lives and future.
The fear of apprehension and deportation, for themselves or their parents,
is ever-present and immensely damaging. For a mixed-status family, routine
activities like dropping off a child at school, grocery shopping or taking public transportation present a constant danger of confrontation with law enforcement—and the possible separation of children, parents and spouses.
Federal paralysis over the fate of 11 million undocumented immigrants
currently residing in the U. S. has given way to a punitive crackdown in several states on these individuals and their families. Nowhere is the story of
undocumented immigration more dystopic than for the children who grow
up in the shadow of the law. 1
Not in the business of separating families? U. S.- born children march with their undocumented parents in front of the White House on July 28, 2010, to protest the record levels of deportations under President Barack Obama.
142 Americas Quarterly SPRING 2012