Immigrant families are justifiably concerned about their families' abilities to peacefully live, work and be educated in our country. There is a heightened anxiety due to the increased threats of arrest, detention and deportation. Families are reluctant to go out in public and children are scared that they may come home to find their parents gone. Social services agencies and schools have reported a growing number of questions about how receiving services will affect their immigration status. Proposed sweeping changes to federal immigration policy could have a disproportionate effect on California, where 50 percent of children have at least one immigrant parent, compared to 25 percent nationwide.
Providing support and accurate information to immigrant families is essential in these turbulent times. Being available outside of regular office hours, making home visits, and understanding the stresses that families are facing will help facilitate working with families. We will continue to provide updates on changes in immigration policies as they affect families with young children, and are available to answer any of your questions. All the immigrant rights material discussed below (and more) can be found on our website, SLOHealthAccess.org.
Key Takeaways From Recent Community Discussions: Current Status
The laws on eligibility for social services programs - Medi-Cal, CalFresh, School Lunch, etc. - have not changed. Those persons who were eligible before are still eligible.
The immigration laws have not changed - the DACA program remains in place and the permanent residency and citizenship laws have not changed. While the new federal Administration has sought changes, there has been no Congressional action on immigration. The same is true for U-Visas for victims of human trafficking and domestic violence.
Increasing access to health care for children ages 0-5 and their families
Family Resource Centers are located throughout SLO County and offer support in meeting basic needs, assistance through crises, and case management services. Family advocates can assist with Medi-Cal forms and other health-related issues. For a complete listing, download the SLO County FRC Directory.
Families who want to get off of public programs for fear of jeopardizing their current or future immigration status should know that dropping out of a program does not purge the agency's system of their information. There is no reason not to continue receiving the services to which they are entitled.
Social services, educational and health agencies do not share their information with immigration authorities or other agencies except on issues of eligibility for services. This information is protected unless a Court orders otherwise.
Families should know their rights when dealing with immigration and other enforcement agencies. They do not need to let immigration agents enter the house or workplace without a warrant - they don't even need to answer the door. Silence is a right. There is no requirement to speak to an immigration agent.
The immigration authorities have policies that limit immigration enforcement actions at sensitive locations including schools (including pre-school and daycare), school bus stops, health care facilities, places of worship, religious or civil ceremonies (such as weddings and funerals) and during public demonstrations.
"Getting legalized" is a difficult process for most undocumented immigrants and is generally not available. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is one potential avenue for work permits and protection from deportation. (It was created by and can be changed by Presidential Executive Order). Families should consult an immigration attorney, Catholic Charities(805.706.8565) or IMPORTA in Santa Barbara (805.604.5060).
Families should develop preparedness plans for all eventualities whether it is a natural disaster, a fire or an immigration raid. The plans should include plans for care of children and other dependents, collecting and keeping important family documents in a safe place, arranging family finances, and knowing who to call for help. A sample plan can be found on our website.
Parents who fear deportation should obtain a US passport for their citizen children as well passports for the children from the parent's country of origin (usually Mexico) so children can travel freely in both countries. The Mexican Consulate in Oxnard can help with Mexican passports and "matriculas".
The immigration authorities cannot enter a private area without permission or a warrant. Agencies and providers should delineate "public" and "private" areas. For example, a waiting room can be designated private for clients only. Staff and volunteers should be trained on what to do if there is a raid or immigration enforcement action.
Agencies should review their record retention policies and purge all records that are not relevant to the services that they provide.
Cultivating and maintaining personal and confidential relationships between family workers and families is essential to help families.
The National Immigration Law Center in partnership with the National Employment Law Project created a guide for employers titled What to Do if Immigration Comes to Your Workplace. This important resource covers how new immigration actions impact employers including employers' rights and responsibilities both in preparing for and after a visit from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
For more information regarding recent immigration information please contact us.
The Health Access Training Project is a project of First 5 of San Luis Obispo County which advocates for quality programs and services to support children from prenatal to age five, ensuring that every child is healthy and ready to learn in school.