Yoshikawa Leads Consensus Statement on Undocumented Youth and Families

In the United States, 5.3 million children and adolescents are growing up either with unauthorized status or with at least one parent who has that status. Until recently, little research has informed policy debates related to unauthorized status – including those about border enforcement, deportation, and a pathway to citizenship – despite the importance of these issues for youth development.

The Society for Research on Adolescence, an organization of over 1,300 scientists who study adolescent development, published a consensus statement earlier this month in the Journal of Research on Adolescence that summarizes the research on multiple domains of development that may be affected by a child or parent’s unauthorized status. Led by NYU Steinhardt’s Hirokazu Yoshikawa, the statement calls for comprehensive immigration reform, improved working conditions for low-wage workers, and state and local policies that help immigrants and their families gain access to fundamental resources in U.S. society, such as drivers’ licenses, health insurance, and bank accounts.

These policy recommendations are made in response to a clear consensus in the research literature that both children with unauthorized immigration status themselves and U.S. citizen children who have a parent with unauthorized status face developmental challenges, including lower educational attainment, increased poverty, poorer mental health, and loss of family members through deportation, stigma, and exclusion.

“Because developmental challenges continue across generations, not only are nearly a million young people in the U.S. blocked from developmental milestones by their own unauthorized status, but the 4.5 children of parents with this status may be as well,” said Yoshikawa, the Courtney Sale Ross Professor of Globalization and Education at NYU Steinhardt.  “We as a country can do so much more – from immigration reform to improving work conditions to action in educational policy and practice – to include rather than exclude these millions from fully reaching their developmental and human potential.”

The statement was coauthored by Carola Suárez-Orozco of UCLA and Roberto G. Gonzales of Harvard. Consensus reports from the Society for Research on Adolescence reflect evidence-based contributions of social science to policy, and summarize the research to illuminate the implications for practice and policy. The authors and topic of each report are selected and approved by the Consensus Committee and Executive Council of the Society for Research on Adolescence.

Photo credit: Dream Activist