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FORGOTTEN AMERICANS

Trump says he cares about American kids. More than 4 million have undocumented parents

A girl sitting on the shoulders of her father holds a sign reading "Keep Families Together"
Reuters/Joe Penney
She’s American too.
  • Ana Campoy
By Ana Campoy

Deputy editor, global finance and economics

This article is more than 2 years old.

Donald Trump says the US does more than any other country for the world’s most unfortunate, but that he has to put American citizens first.

During his State of the Union address Tuesday night (Jan. 30), he singled out American children as one of the groups living in the US he cares about most. “As president of the United States, my highest loyalty, my greatest compassion, and my constant concern is for America’s children, America’s struggling workers, and America’s forgotten communities,” he said.

However, whether Trump admits it or not, “America’s children” includes some 4.1 million US citizens under the age of 18 who have at least one undocumented parent, according to a 2016 analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, DC-based think tank.

Those children tend to be poorer and less likely to get ahead economically than their peers. They have less access to federal programs to help the poor, including public housing and food stamps, and have lower educational attainment than children whose parents are legal US residents.

They also are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, largely due to the constant fear their parents will be deported. If that does happen, the psychological trauma can worsen, and affect their learning.

That background, which hinders integration into US society, means these 4.1 million children and adolescents are likely to grow up to become members of the other groups Trump vowed to defend: America’s “forgotten communities” and “struggling workers.”

Under former president Barack Obama, undocumented parents of US citizens who were otherwise law-abiding could rest assured that they were very low priority for deportation. Trump’s policies have suggested practically anyone in the US illegally is a target.

But if Trump truly wants to help these American citizens, he should push for policies that at the very least keep people from living in fear, and, ideally, normalize the 11 million undocumented people in the US.

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