By Esther Reyes
October 16, 2023
Chairman Hunter, Vice Chairwoman Hernandez, and honorable Members of the House Committee on State Affairs, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Esther Reyes, and I am the Director of Immigration Policy and Advocacy for the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas (CDF-TX). We are a nonprofit children’s advocacy organization that believes that every child deserves a successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.
CDF-TX strongly opposes HB 4, which would subject migrants and Texans across the entirety of the state to the threat of immediate detention and forced removal by authorizing Texas peace officers―including including those in schools and hospital districts―to detain, transport and even remove individuals they suspect of entering the state unlawfully.
For children in immigrant families, the threat―even the perceived threat―of immigration enforcement can have devastating effects, beginning before birth. Research finds heightened immigration enforcement has troubling impact on babies, including decreased use of prenatal care for immigrant mothers and declines in birth weight.(1)
Fear of immigration related consequences also causes immigrant families to forgo vital nutrition support programs. In a qualitative study of 32 geographically diverse organizations in Texas, CDF-Texas found that anti-immigrant policies caused many mixed-status families to fear enrolling even their citizen children.(2)
Children’s feelings of personal safety are linked to the perceived safety of those who care for them.(3) Immigration detention and deportation are threats to personal safety and fuel fears of family separation. Let’s take a moment to remember the irreparable harm caused by family separation under the Trump Administration, which separated over 5,000 children from their parents. Nothing in this bill would safeguard children from this devastating harm, nor can this bill be amended in any way to prevent family separation from taking place.
We know that this bill is plagued with legal and practical concerns, and I hope you will also consider the disservice this bill does to immigrant children and families, primarily those who are black and brown.
I ask that you stand boldly against HB 4 and step up for the well being of children and families across Texas, regardless of their immigration status or the color of their skin.
(1) Tome, Romina, Marcos Rangel, Christina Gibson-Davis and Laura Bellows. 2021. “Heightened Immigration Enforcement Impacts U.S. Citizens’ Birth Outcomes: Evidence from Early ICE Interventions in North Carolina.” PLoS ONE 16(2): e0245020. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0245020.
(2) Anderson, Cheasty. 2020. “Public Charge and Private Dilemmas: Key Challenges and Best Practices for Fighting the Chilling Effect in Texas, 2017-2019,” p. 1. Bellaire, TX: Children’s Defense Fund-Texas. https://cdftexas.org/protecting-immigrant-communities/public-charge-and-private-dilemmas/ Note: Mixed-status families is defined here as families whose members include people with different citizenship or immigrant statuses.
(3) Cervantes, Wendy, Rebecca Ullrich, and Hannah Matthews. 2018. “Our Children’s Fear: Immigration Policy’s Effects on Young Children,” p. 8. Washington, DC: CLASP. https://www.clasp.org/publications/report/brief/ourchildrens-fear-immigration-policys-effects-young-children.
“We know that this bill is plagued with legal and practical concerns, and I hope you will also consider the disservice this bill does to immigrant children and families, primarily those who are black and brown.”
Director of Immigration Policy, Children’s Defense Fund – Texas