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About 50 million students attend U.S. public elementary and secondary schools. And according to data, 7 percent have at least one undocumented parent. That’s 3.5 million children. What I found this week in writing about immigration raids and deportation scares is that the emotional and educational impact is staggering. Current immigration policy is shattering families and leaving U.S.-born children parentless, as they watch one or both parents deported. Immigration policy is education policy.

A CNN feature in 2013 profiled teen siblings in Florida orphaned after their father was deported while they were at school. It was the second time the children, who are both legal residents, lost a parent to deportation—their mother was returned to Nicaragua in 2008. “Constantly worrying that their parents will be snatched away, children often feel angry, helpless, and trapped,” CNN’s Cindy Y. Rodriguez and Adriana Hauser wrote. A study by the advocacy organization Human Impact Partners published the same year, “Family Unity, Family Health,” found that the deportation scares take a mental and physical toll on undocumented immigrants’ children. Researchers linked the threat of detention and deportation to poorer educational outcomes, concluding: “U.S.-citizen children who live in families under threat of detention or deportation will finish fewer years of school and face challenges focusing on their studies.”

This research provides important insight given the current round of federal raids triggering deep-seated fears in the Hispanic community. As immigration agents target adults with school-age children in several states, even those exempt from the sanctions are anxious and scared.

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(Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock)