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Daniel Brittain
H English III
25 April 2016
The Challenges Children of Illegal Immigrants are Facing Currently in the United States,
Particularly of Latino or Hispanic Descent
Imagine growing up in an environment where you are poor, frowned upon, told to go
back to where you came from, discriminated against, told that you are the problem, that you
shouldnt be here. Now combine that with the fear of losing one or both of your parents and
even other relatives due to deportation, with the possibility of you never seeing them again. This
is the reality for both the citizen and non-citizen children of illegal immigrants in the United
States, and it is devastating to their mental health. Furthermore, there has been little effort by the
United States government to remedy this predicament through comprehensive and affective
immigration policy, which currently remains the only way this occurrence can be resolved. The
obstacles faced by the children of illegal immigrants affect a significant quantity of United States
citizens as eighty-seven percent of the children of illegal immigrants are actually United States
citizens themselves (Landale 44). So regardless of an individuals stance on immigration, the
United States is failing to promote the general welfare for its citizens. These circumstances
which consist of poverty, loss, mental health disabilities, and increased mental health obstacles
during child growth are due to the lack of comprehensive immigration integration and
deportation policy, which negatively affects the both citizen and non-citizen youth of illegal
immigrants in the United States.

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The lack of comprehensive immigration integration and deportation policy in addition to
the life of acculturative stress and discrimination which is consistent with the youth of illegal
immigrants is detrimental to the future generations of individuals living in the United States.
Regardless of their legal statues, the children of illegal immigrants constantly worry about the
deportation of their loved ones, and often suffer from the mental stress that comes from it. This
issue concerning the effects that deportation has on children is vast, as according to the
Department of Homeland Security 409,849 undocumented immigrants were deported in 2012
(Zayas Bradlee 167). This is a significant quantity of individuals that have been removed from
the United States. Now consider this, demographers estimate that for every two undocumented
immigrants deported, one citizen child is directly affected (Zayas Bradlee 168). This means that
approximately 200,000 children were separated from some sort of relative in 2012 (Zayas
Bradlee 168). This is partially due to the fact that the United States Immigration and Customs
Enforcement agency is not required to screen immigrants for possible children. These losses at
especially young ages can easily mentally scar a child, and lead to depression, low selfconfidence, anxiety, and alienation from society. Along with deportation many often fail to
realize that the child of the undocumented immigrant is more likely than not put in foster care
(which as most know is not the highest quality program) with individuals they have never
known, and often never see their biological parents again. These events unfold because of the
way agencies work dependent of each other in the United States, especially when concerning
deportation and children. The three primary agencies concerning deportation and youth are the
United States Immigration and Enforcement Agency (ICE), the Department of Social Work
(DHS), and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). These agencies as of now
do not communicate in cases concerning children and deportation, which often leads to the prior

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stated sequence of events where children are stripped from their parents and inserted into foster
care system. An example of such a circumstance is in the case of The State of Nebraska v. Maria
L, 2009, when an undocumented mother was deported to Guatemala, and her daughter was put
under the care of the Department of Health and Human Services. Custody hearings for the child
resulted in that the daughter would be put under foster care, but that the mother could make a
case in an effort to reclaim her child. Though Since ICE and the DHHS work independently the
mother was deported already, and the DHHS could communicate with her to make a retrial,
therefore the state terminated her parental rights over the child and the daughter stayed under
child care (Zayas Bradlee 170). This is just one of many cases where the children of
undocumented immigrants are stripped from their parents and never see them again.
Along with the fear of deportation of themselves or a loved one, the children of illegal
immigrants also face problems such as integrating into society and obtaining suitable living
arrangements. This is due to a variety of factors such as low parental education, poverty, and
language barriers (Landale 44). Low parental education is often due to the fact that particularly
for illegal immigrants of Mexican descent their average education is only eight years in an
academic institution. Whereas a Mexican-American has a standard of twelve years of education,
and often in higher quality establishments. The Mexican standard is significant because forty
percent of Latin American immigrants were originally from Mexico (Landale 44), eighty-five
percent of immigrants of Mexican origin living in the United States being illegal (from 2002 to
2004), and with thirty-four percent of the children of Mexican immigrants living in poverty it is
of interest to remain attentive to that demographic (Landale 51). This lack of education
especially for Mexican illegals may create a misguided and mal informed household. It can
create very unsettling living conditions for children as parent/child roles are switched, as the

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child often becomes the translator for the illegal adult. This creates excess stress as the child is
forced to take on immense pressure at a very young age. This is due to the language barrier that
is created as often immigrants are not familiar with the English language, and rely on their
children to read and write on their behalf. Undocumented immigrant households, due to the fear
of deportation, often do not utilize the beneficial resources of which their child may be qualified
to have (Landale 45 54). This may in turn hurt the youth of undocumented immigrants as they
may not receive the public health benefits they need. The life of poverty, alienation,
acculturation, low parental education, low parental supervision, discrimination, and high
amounts of pressure create a very unsuitable environment for a child. An environment that will
most definitely cause disabilities in mental health, and impede on a childs future. It is imperative
that these issues are remedied as the youth of immigrants have amassed over three -quarters of
the growth population since 1990, and one in five U.S. children has one or more foreignborn
parents (Landale 44). This quantity of individuals being affected is unheard of, and is one of the
most important issues facing the United States today.
A childs mental health is an important factor for their life and can make or break their
future. Relating this sentiment to the children of undocumented immigrants, this is a predicament
of which is affecting an unfathomable amount of children in the United States. Since already one
in ten children suffer from some type of mental illness already, it is no surprise that the children
of illegal immigrants suffer more than that of the regular child (Frabutt 499). Especially if that
child himself/herself illegally immigrated to the United States, trends show that during the
process of migration a child may develop forms of PTSD and other long term mental health
issues (Frabutt 500). Since the ways of migration for undocumented immigrants are often illegal,
the journey to the United States is usually dangerous and can result in physical and/or mental

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harm, along with the loss of a loved one or particular object. This loss can remain in a childs
psyche for a significant amount of time, which may hinder mental health and growth, and often
affect emotional status. More broad mental health issues that affect both legal and illegal children
of undocumented immigrants can consist of an abundance of alienation, depression and anxiety,
identity problems, and psychosomatic symptoms (Frabutt 501). This is logical as an individual
in a foreign location and culture, especially a child who is deemed different or inferior or
possibly even criminal by those around him/her may undoubtedly create the above said mental
health issues. The effects of acculturative stress and discrimination as well was the factors
pertaining to how an immigrant child traveled to the United States creates very disruptive
psychosocial disabilities and certainly hinders their mental health for both short and long-term
scenarios.(Frabutt 501).
The current lack of immigration integration and deportation policy in the United States is
detrimental to the welfare of a significant amount of United States citizens and youth in general.
These issues can only be resolved through the full intent of the United States government to
implement policy which support the children of undocumented immigrants in the United States
and is built around their well-being. It is hard enough moving to a new school, let alone a new
nation and culture, all the while being discriminated against and living in poverty. It is
imperative that the United States implement policy that requires government agencies to
cooperate and communicate with each other, and more particular policy reforms such as require
that agencies like ICE screen for whether an undocumented immigrant has children or not. These
issues concerning the youth of illegal immigrants whether citizen or not are detrimental to the
future health of the United States, and require the full and immediate attention of the government
to remedy the problems. Rather than for political gain, policy must be created by individuals who

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are passionate about the well-being of the children of illegal immigrants as well as individuals
who fully understand the current failures of the United States undocumented immigration policy
and are able to implement practical an effective policy reform.

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Works Cited
Frabutt, James M. "Immigrant Youth Mental Health, Acculturation, And Adaptation." Catholic
Education: A Journal Of Inquiry And Practice 9.4 (2006): 499-504. ERIC. Web. 25 Apr.
Landale, Nancy S., Kevin J. A. Thomas, and Jennifer Van Hook. "The Living
Arrangements Of Children Of Immigrants." Future Of Children 21.1 (2011): 43-70. ERIC. Web.
25 Apr. 2016.
Zayas, Luis H., and Mollie H. Bradlee. "Exiling Children, Creating Orphans: When
Immigration Policies Hurt Citizens." Social Work 59.2 (2014): 167-175 9p. CINAHL with Full
Text. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.