Challenges to Family Unity and Opportunities for Promoting Child Welfare in an Increasingly Punitive Immigration Landscape


  • Megan Finno-Velasquez New Mexico State University
  • Alan J. Dettlaff University of Houston



Children of immigrants, child welfare, social work


This paper describes specific challenges to family unity and child welfare among children in immigrant families resulting from immigration enforcement. Surges in immigration activity over the past decade have resulted in family economic hardship, psychological trauma to children, and difficulty accessing social services. Children whose parents are detained/deported are at risk of unnecessarily entering the child welfare system, and encounter significant barriers to family reunification. In recent months, the scope of enforcement priorities that previously safeguarded many parents now target a much larger group of immigrants for deportation, increasingly disregarding the needs of children. Immigration raids have terrorized communities across the country, and repercussions are being felt by the child welfare system and social service providers. Within an anti-immigrant political climate, there is a desperate need for social workers to lead initiatives to respond to immigrants’ needs. Strategies include: (1) development of social work expertise in working with immigrants; (2) cross-systems and cross-disciplinary collaborations; (3) leveraging existing resources and supports; (4) documentation/collection of data; and (5) focused advocacy efforts.


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