Immigrant Detention Family Study: Examining the Educational Outcomes for Children of Detained Immigrants
In 2013, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained 477,000 individuals across the United States—a number that has double in the last decade alone. Immigration laws have become increasingly restrictive by criminalizing the non-citizen population, expanding the grounds for deportation, reducing opportunities for relief from deportation, and making detention mandatory for certain non-citizens. As immigration enforcement escalates, so do the number of children of immigrants who are affected by these laws despite being U.S.-born. Deciphering the consequences that parental detention imposes on children may help inform policy reform efforts. The literature on mass incarceration, a comparable and well-established body of scholarship, highlights a breadth of consequences experienced by children with incarcerated parents including increased poverty, household instability, deteriorating health and decreased educational outcomes. To determine whether similar consequences occur for children during parental immigration detention, I conducted 21 semi-structured interviews with children and spouses of ex-detainees who were held in one of Southern California’s detention facilities for six-months or longer. Findings from this study reveal that parental confinement impacts youth’s behavioral and educational outcomes and produces an element of insecurity and uncertainty—unique to mixed- status families because of the parent’s legal status. Future directions are discussed.