Invisible Borders: School Counselors and Mixed-Status Children

Invisible Borders: School Counselors and Mixed-Status Children

Kendra Larrisha Blakely, Chiquita Long Holmes, Eugenie Joan Looby, Kevin Merideth, Alexis M. Jackson, Lindsey Donald, Kimberly Tillman Gray
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7319-8.ch005
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This chapter focuses on children in mixed-status families. The authors provide demographic data and the definition of a mixed-status family, then outline the challenges experienced by these families. The authors delineate developmental, educational, and psychological risk factors for these children. Intervention and advocacy initiatives in which school counselors can engage are examined. Authors provide practical solutions, suggestions for future research, a glossary of terms, and further readings. Finally, each topic discussed includes application strategies for school counselors.
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In 2017 the United States population of undocumented immigrants was approximately 10.5 million, and of those, 73% were of Latinx descent (Gonzalez-Berrera et al., 2020). Further, according to the Migration Policy Institute (2016), 2.5 million undocumented children and youth under the age of 25 live in the U.S., representing nearly 23 percent of the total undocumented immigrant population. This section outlines the status types, family structure, and common experiences among members.

The term “undocumented immigrants” refers to individuals born outside of the United States who lack legal permission to enter or remain in the U.S. after the expiration of their visa (Frisby & Jimerson, 2016; Zayas et al., 2015). Undocumented immigrants are not authorized to work, receive public benefits, or obtain a driver's license (Enriquez, 2015). This marginalized group and their children regularly encounter the fear of detainment and deportation, which engenders constant stress and anxiety. Nearly half of undocumented immigrants are parents of minor children, many of whom are citizens and are severely impacted by their parents' undocumented status. Zayas and Gulbas (2017) refered to these children as citizen-children and the family composition as mixed-status families.

Mixed-status families are families whose members have varying citizenship or immigration statuses. A mixed-status family includes one or both undocumented immigrant parents (in some instances, undocumented children who immigrated with their parents) and U.S. born children (Enriquez, 2015). Mixed-status families present complicated family dynamics, as they consist of any combination of legal immigrants, undocumented immigrants, naturalized citizens, and U.S. born individuals. The family’s composition changes as undocumented family members become citizens (Enriquez, 2015, Zayas et al., 2015).

Approximately nine million children of Latinx descent live in mixed-status families. Reports show approximately four million of these are U.S. born citizens, with 1.3 million living with two undocumented parents, and 909,000 living with a single undocumented parent (Gelatt & Zong, 2018). The residual 1.8 million live with one citizen or legal immigrant parent and one undocumented caregiver. Citizen-children may also have undocumented siblings who reside in the same household. These children share lineage, but not the same legal status (Zayas & Heffron, 2016). What they have in common is the pervasive anxiety, dread, and torment of expecting their parents to be arrested, detained, and deported. This places them at risk for the negative outcomes discussed in the next section.

Key Terms in this Chapter

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder): A disorder that occurs once someone has experienced or witnessed a traumatic situation or event.

Risk Factors: The variables that increases one’s risk for a negative consequence.

Undocumented Immigrant: A person who lacks the legal right to reside in a country.

Citizen-Children: Children who are legal residents of a given country.

Immigrant: A person who leaves their country of origin to take up residence in a foreign country.

Acculturation: The adoption of the social culture (customs, norms, and values) of a new environment; assimilation to the dominant culture.

Protective Factors: The attributes that help to reduce the negative impact of a situation.

Legal Status: One’s position (status) in a given country as defined by the law.

Spillover Effect: When the laws intended for a specified group of people negatively impact an unintended population.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): A federal law enforcement agency designated to aid in the arrest, detainment, and deportation of undocumented immigrants.

Deportation: The removal of a person or group from a country. Detention: The lawful confinement or detainment of a person.

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