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Children’s Advocates Welcome Biden Administration’s Actions to Expand Legal Pathways for Undocumented Spouses and Dreamers

Washington, D.C., June 18, 2024 – Members of the Children Thrive Action Network applaud and welcome steps the Biden Administration has taken today to create additional pathways for legal status and work authorization for two groups of immigrants who strengthen and support American families, communities, and society: spouses of U.S. citizens and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and other undocumented youth, known as “Dreamers.”

For undocumented immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens, the administration will now enable them to qualify for parole in place and stay with their families as they apply for permanent residency. Previously, they had to return to their home countries to adjust their status, often enduring years of separation from children and spouses and sometimes permanent separation. They will also now be authorized to work in the U.S., enabling them to better provide for their families.

By some estimates, there are more than 1 million undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens living in the U.S., and there are more than 5 million children living with at least one undocumented parent. According to recent polling, large majorities of voters support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented caregivers and spouses of U.S. citizens. A vast body of research finds that when children are separated from their parents or caregivers for an extended period of time, their development is hindered. Research also shows that children benefit when their families achieve stability and economic mobility gained through lawful status and work authorization.

For DACA recipients, new guidance on the D-3 waiver program will allow eligible DACA recipients and other Dreamers a streamlined way to apply for work visas. Tens of thousands of Dreamers will now be eligible for work visas and a pathway to permanent status, enabling them to utilize their skills and degrees to pursue careers and contribute to the U.S. workforce. This policy removes the uncertainty facing many DACA recipients, their families, and other undocumented youth who have been locked out of the DACA program. There are more than a quarter million U.S. citizen children with at least one parent who has DACA.

Several CTAN members commended the announcement:

Wendy Cervantes, Director of Immigration and Immigrant Families at the Center for Law and Social Policy, said:

“Today’s announcement represents decades of hard work from immigrant communities, organizers, and advocates who are committed to ensuring the dignity, safety, and well-being of immigrant families across the country. Immigrants and their children, the vast majority of whom are U.S. citizens, deserve the opportunity to live free from the fear of separation and thrive in the country they call home. Expanding work authorization and permanent relief to spouses of U.S. citizens and Dreamers is a smart policy move that will promote better child outcomes and help build a brighter future for our country as a whole. We are grateful to the Biden Administration for taking this important step, and we urge them to consider all other administrative levers to provide relief to mixed-status families.”

Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, President and CEO of Children’s Defense Fund, said: 

“With the parole in place executive order, President Biden will provide the estimated 5 million children in mixed-status families with desperately needed relief from the perpetual dread of an undocumented parent’s deportation. The EO is not just humane immigration policy; it is a step toward building a nation where all children and young people grow up with dignity, hope, and joy.”

Stephanie Ettinger De Cuba, PhD, MPH, Executive Director of Children’s HealthWatch said:

“There’s a robust evidence base demonstrating that having a parent present in the household who is also healthy and well is vital to the optimal health, growth, and cognitive and socioemotional development of children, especially in early childhood. Our research demonstrates that if we care about children’s health, we must take care of parents’ health, too. For mixed status families, this includes ensuring that the family unit is not broken apart. Policies that keep families intact, like expanded parole in place and the D-3 waiver program, are evidence-based child health interventions.”