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New research shows the impact of Texas’ controversial anti-immigrant law SB4 on the health of children and mixed-status families across the Rio Grande Valley

La Unión del Pueblo Entero and our community leaders worked in partnership with Human Impact Partners, on a six-month process to document how SB4 affects the everyday life of RGV residents.

Since Arizona’s notorious SB1070 in 2010, a slew of states have enacted discriminatory “show me your papers” laws. This study builds on a growing set of research showing how such laws at the state level harm children and undermine public health.

This new study clearly shows the harmful health consequences of Texas requiring local law enforcement to work with federal immigration officials as required by SB4. 

Our research found that among the families surveyed in which at least one parent was undocumented, 29 percent of children experienced severe stress. Fears of deportation and family separation harm child health. Children in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas experience PTSD at much higher rates (1 in 5) than children elsewhere (1 in 20).

An estimated 75,000 children in the RGV live in mixed-status families where at least one parent is undocumented. Last year 1,800 U.S.-born kids from the RGV had a parent deported by Immigration officials. Local police play a big role in these forced family separations.

The result is clear: The Texas law SB 4 requiring local law enforcement officials to work with federal immigration officials has harmful health effects on children and mixed-status families.

As the fight over the law plays out in court, we continue to organize and push for public policies that protect children and families from the devastating effects of laws like SB4. The report puts forward the following recommendations:

  • Prioritize local police resources toward local public safety needs
  • Increase use of “cite and release” practices during traffic stops
  • Accept alternative forms for ID for traffic stop procedures

While these recommendations are tailored to the Rio Grande Valley, officials in neighboring states can work with child advocates and immigrant communities to prevent the crafting of anti-immigrant policies affecting the health of children and families.

This report was made possible by funding from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

To read the full report, visit www.familyunityfamilyhealth.org.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Juanita Valdez-Cox, director of La Unión del Pueblo Entero.

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