When Trump Attacks Immigrants, He Attacks Our Children Too
On my first day as a working mother, my brand new child care provider held my infant son with one arm and rubbed my back with other as I cried. After four months at home with him, I had mixed feelings about returning to work. She assured me that he would be in good hands and that he would love child care. She was right. Soon he bounced up and down in my arms when he saw his teacher each morning and gave her a big smile. She made my first year as a working mom possible. She helped us through milestones like getting my son to eat finger food, transitioning from a bottle, and finding the right shoes for learning to walk. Like many women who work in child care, she also happens to be an immigrant.
Over the last year, the Trump administration set out to marginalize immigrants. The President’s attacks on immigrants and refugees are almost too numerous to tally: ending the DACA program, targeting parents of U.S. citizen children for deportation, multiple Muslim bans, ending Temporary Protected Status for countries like El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua, policies to destroy family reunification, and some particularly crass language to describe African and Central American nations. Not only does this approach undermine the diversity that has made our country strong, but it also threatens our child care system that relies heavily on the work of immigrant women.
At the Center for American Progress, we recently shared the finding that one in five child care workers is an immigrant. Moreover, as more families include working parents and the demand for child care increased, it is immigrant women who have largely filled this role. Over the last 20 years, the number of immigrant women in the child care field tripled.
During the 2016 presidential race, Trump promised to help low-income and middle-class families afford child care. Since that time, Trump has not only failed to even propose child care policy, but he has also attacked many of the women who work in the child care field. Immigrants are our child care providers, teachers, engineers, innovators, CEOs, neighbors, and family members. They are critical to our country’s economic well-being both today and in the future. Regardless of how many generations our families have been in this U.S., immigration policy impacts all of us.
As mothers, we are raising the most diverse generation of children yet. Among children under five, there is no majority race or ethnicity. This diversity is one of their greatest strengths. Our children will grow up exposed to cultures, languages, and perspectives that will make our future workforce competitive in a global economy that demands innovation and the ability to communicate with people all over the world. When our country’s leaders embrace rhetoric that attacks immigrants and their families, they threaten this future and our children may internalize the fear and hate they hear in the public discourse. Our families may look different, but we all want our children to grow up to be happy and a successful. We cannot stand by while this Administration’s immigration policies threaten our children and their peers.
As mothers, we must join the fight to protect immigrants and their families regardless of whether our own families are the subject of such attacks. Not only because many of the people we entrust to care for our children each day are immigrants, but because it is antithetical to the future we envision for our children.
Katie Hamm is the vice president for early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress. She lives with her son and husband in Washington, D.C.