shutterstock_157595678America is a nation of immigrants, and Congress has the critical job of making sure U.S. immigration laws are up to par. Yet, decade after decade, we are left with legislative scraps and executive orders on how to deal with the immigration system. That lack of concrete, comprehensive action directly and negatively affects our competitiveness in a global economy. But it also hinders our ability to maintain a clear moral authority on a whole host of issues, including how we treat our children.

Lost in all the bravado about building walls, having a religious litmus test, creating a two tier citizenship structure, and having permanent and semi-permanent bars, is the most important issue of all – the welfare of American kids.

In 2007, an estimated 9% of all U.S. babies were born to undocumented parents. In 2012, there were 4.5 million U.S.-born children younger than 18 living with undocumented immigrant parents. According to a study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, these children experience multiple developmental side effects because of their parents’ status. Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, a professor of education at New York University and an author of the study says the effects are in “cognitive development, engagement in school and their ability to be emerging citizens.”

In 2012, the Center for American Progress found that children born to undocumented migrant parents live in constant fear of family separation. Not knowing if one or both of their parents might be deported at any time is extremely traumatic. How can kids be expected to differentiate between the police and immigration officials, when both have shown up in recent raids rounding up Central American families? Kids are undoubtedly growing up afraid of the police as well as ICE and once that trust is lost they and the rest of the community will be less likely to come forward if they witness or are victims of a crime. It is unconscionable that our children have to grow up under conditions reminiscent of the old world police states.

As years go by, these kids grow up and become adults in our communities. They become our co-workers, neighbors, friends, and families. Congress has repeatedly failed these children, and the rest of us, by not enacting much needed changes to our immigration laws. America is better than what we have given these kids and is, more than ever, in dire need of a comprehensive reform of its immigration laws. All kids deserve security and safety rather than fear and intimidation. Please, urge Congress to recognize the impact that the status quo is having on children, families, and communities and to move our country forward by ending raids on families and passing comprehensive immigration reform.

Written by Ally Bolour, Member, AILA Media Advocacy Committee