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Tips for Helping a Child Through a Parent’s Deportation

When a child is born within the borders of the United States, even if the parents are undocumented aliens, he or she is automatically entitled to US citizenship thanks to the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.
However, this does not mean the child’s parents are protected from deportation due to their undocumented immigrant status. In 2013 alone, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed over 72,000 parents who had children who were US citizens. This doesn’t include parents who were deported and neglected to tell ICE that they had US-born children. Additionally, according to a 2013 study by the group Human Impact Partners, over 4.5 million children live in the US with at least one undocumented parent.
The effects on children of losing one or both parents to deportation cannot be understated. Similar to children who lose one or both parents due to death, incarceration, abandonment, or intervention by Child Protective Services, children who are separated from parents who are deported can face serious emotional and mental health challenges including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
There can also be a major financial impact on the life of the child from losing the income of the parent or parents who are deported.
If a child’s primary caregiver is deported, they will generally get to choose who will take care of the child. Parents who are being deported need to try hard to make sure the child is taken care of by someone who will provide a strong support system and can handle the monetary burden.
Whether the child is left in foster care, with a relative, or with a remaining parent, it is essential that the caregiver talk to the child about how they feel about their parent’s deportation. Create an open dialogue and work to reinforce the fact that the parent or parents did not leave the child because they did not love him or her.
It is also important to reinforce the child’s feeling of safety, to remind them they are not in danger and that they are loved.
Getting a child mental health counseling that is sensitive to his or her emotional trauma can also be a very important step in helping a child prepare for and adjust to a parent’s deportation. Most victims of traumatic separations need professional help in order to recover from the trauma.
Finally, work to put a plan in place for allowing the child to remain in contact with his or her deported parent(s). Whether by phone or getting to physically visit their parents, staying in contact with parents after a forced separation can help remind the child that the parents love them and help ease the burden of their loss.
Above all else, the children of deported parents need love and support. It is important that they receive the care they deserve to help them adjust to the challenge of losing one or both parents. If you have questions about immigration or deportation, please contact Christine Swenson to discuss your options and learn more about how to help children whose parents are being deported.

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