“Immigrants raising citizens”

My dissertation examined the role of the immigrant family in news coverage of immigration reform in Oklahoma. In the process of completing my dissertation fieldwork, I heard a number of harrowing, heartbreaking stories from immigrants marginalized and pushed into the shadows and precarious situations because of our dysfunctional immigration system that is fueled by a hateful culture where misunderstandings of immigrants abound. Like my fieldwork, this NYT story only reinforces my belief that the toll on families and children is perhaps the most compelling reason for comprehensive reform in favor of a more humane immigration legal framework.

Based on a study by a Harvard professor, the article demonstrates that children of immigrants, most of whom are American citizens, suffer the harshest consequences of not only current immigration policy but the cultural environment that breeds fear among their parents:

“Millions of the youngest citizens in the United States, simply by virtue of being born to a parent with a particular legal status, have less access to the learning opportunities that are the building blocks of adult productivity,” he wrote.

The implications for the nation are potentially far-reaching and long-lasting, he said, considering that of all preschool children of illegal immigrant parents in the United States, an estimated 91 percent — four million children — are American citizens.

In other words, immigration laws, as they currently exist, affect the nation as a whole, not just the individual immigrants. We have a national interest in helping these parents, who are, in fact, raising citizens in the worst circumstances, to come out of the shadows. This begins by ending the misinformation that surrounds so much of the issue, leading to healthier families and more productive, engaged citizens.

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