The role of citizen children of undocumented immigrants and their families in campaigns for immigration reform and preserving Executive Action’s DAPA program

Mark Silverman, Immigrant Legal Resource Center & Martha Ugarte, Future Voters of America




The basic idea is to encourage the incorporation of U.S. citizen of undocumented immigrants, or of the various members of the mixed families (undocumented parents and citizen children) in campaigns for immigration reform.  Often this would be incorporating these children and families into existing organizations.  It could also involve the formation of new organizations where appropriate.   Older children (college students, high school students and those out of high school) can play leadership roles in these organizations.  Young children can play a role in marches, media presentations and other activities, and more importantly, can learn from their parents, experienced organizers and leaders (including active DREAMers who in many case are their older siblings.)  One example is the excellent work of leaders and parents working with young children in an organization called Future Voters of America in the Los Angeles area.


Potential benefits:


1.       The citizen children are or will be voters, and represent a huge (perhaps 4-5 million) group of actual and future voters.  We also encourage legal resident children to  become citizens.


2.       The children (and their families) can play a key role not only in efforts to win Reform, but also in efforts to obtain and preserve administrative relief such as DAPA and to reduce deportations. 


3.       The citizens’ children participation and organizing will be a powerful force in the quest for immigrant justice.  Even after a Reform (or DAPA), there will be future undocumented parents of citizen who did not qualify for the Reform (or DAPA) or come in afterwards into the country.  Separate from the Reform, we need a change in current immigration law to:


(a) end the 3 and 10 year bar [INA Section 212(a)(9)(B]; or if that is not possible in the short run, to at least

(b) provide immigrant parents with eligibility for a waiver based on hardship to their citizen children; and,

(c)  end the cruel “permanent bar” [INA Section 212(a)(9)(C], which bars those who have returned unlawfully to the U.S. to immigrate through family visa petitions and most other means.


4.       This approach has the potential to create an immigration-justice tradition in future generations.  The citizen children who are involved in campaigns and organizations will have learned lessons and obtained experiences which in the future they can pass on to their children.


5.       In addition to their potential power as voters/future voters, the citizen children can be very persuasive in winning over the general American public to why immigration reform is needed and is in accord with “family values”.


6.       The citizen children can also serve as a more easily identifiable “bridge” between the immigrant community and different parts of the American society (e.g. their friends, other persons from their community, youth, the general public).