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Safe-Zone Schools and Children with Undocumented Parents

Part of the National Symposium on Family Issues book series (NSFI,volume 1)


Growing concerns about the mental health and educational implications of intensified interior immigration enforcement on children in mixed-status households have led many school districts across the country to adopt “safe-zone” policies aimed at supporting their students’ well-being and academic progression. Using preliminary data from a binational survey conducted on US-born children in mixed-status households who have experienced or are at risk of parental deportation, we exploit the geographic variation in the adoption of safe-zone policies to assess if, and how, the policies might shield students from the negative impacts of intensified interior immigration enforcement. We find that heightened immigration enforcement has a detrimental impact on children’s educational performance, whereas safe zones help mitigate such effects. Overall, the results advance our understanding of the costs that immigration policies impose on migrants and US citizens alike, as well as the benefits of local sanctuary policies.


  • Safe-zone schools
  • Education
  • Children
  • Mixed-status households
  • Undocumented immigrants
  • Educational outcomes
  • Academic progression
  • Immigration enforcement
  • Undocumented parents
  • Sanctuary policies
  • Safe zones

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-87759-0_1
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  1. 1.

    Although the focus of our study is the impact of immigration policies on children, extant literature documents similar negative mental health effects among adults. See, for example, Bojorquez et al. (2015); Cavazos-Rehg et al. (2007); Lopez et al. (2017); and Wang & Kaushal (2019).

  2. 2.

    Sanctuary policies usually refer to measures enacted at the city, local, or state levels and safe zone refers to school district policies.

  3. 3.

    The data collected in t0 refers exclusively to children with a deported parent. At the time this analysis was conducted, the second wave of interviews was being finalized.

  4. 4.

    This is given by \( \partial Y/\partial SZ={\beta}_1+{\beta}_3\ast {\overline{\mu}}_{\mathrm{IE}} \), where: \( {\overline{\mu}}_{\mathrm{IE}}\approx \) 1.

  5. 5.

    For simplicity, these predicted values ignore the remaining regressors, as well as the constant, since they would be common to the two groups of children being compared.

  6. 6.

    Computed as [marginal effect of safe-zone policy at the average level of IE, i.e., (β1 + β3 ∗ 1)/DV mean].


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Special thanks to Gudelia Rangel, Jamile Tellez Lieberman, Eduardo Faogaga-Gonzalez, and Ahmed Asadi Gonzalez for their work with the survey design and implementation of the Between the Lines Study.

This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant #1R21HD085157-01A1, Principal Investigator: Ana P. Martinez-Donate).

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Correspondence to Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes .

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Table 1.3 Children survey: domains, measures, instrument sources, and sample items

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Amuedo-Dorantes, C., Bucheli, J.R., Martinez-Donate, A.P. (2022). Safe-Zone Schools and Children with Undocumented Parents. In: Glick, J.E., King, V., McHale, S.M. (eds) Parent-Child Separation. National Symposium on Family Issues, vol 1. Springer, Cham.

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