Governor Ron DeSantis ignited fear among workers at federally funded shelters after he directed the Florida Department of Children and Families to cease the issue and renewal of licenses to facilities sheltering undocumented children waiting to be sponsored or reunited with their families. This shocking order, given in mid-December, is already beginning to show its effects on migrant children in Florida, like at the Dream Center in Sarasota where nearly 60 migrant children had to be suddenly relocated after the state failed to act weeks after they filed all of the necessary paperwork for their annual license renewal.
Some child care regulators believe this instruction to be a bid to combat what DeSantis acknowledged during the press conference and announcement as the federal government’s shortcoming to address the issue of Biden’s “border crisis”. Biden’s Build Back Better Framework seeks to enhance U.S. social programs and has policies in place to ensure benefits to children and their guardians, including migrant children currently awaiting sponsorship.
“I want our resources focused on the needs for Florida kids and the needs we have in our communities. These are people who are coming from other countries, they shouldn’t be allowed into this country,” DeSantis said when asked about the rule.
Policy makers need to realize the effect of changes like this on the minors in question. While political rivalry is one thing, real lives are at stake here. “This is like a divorce. DeSantis and Biden divorce. And who gets affected? The children.”, said Silvia Smith-Torres, executive director of His House Children’s Home in Miami Gardens when asked why she opposes DeSantis’ new instructions for the state.
It is traumatizing for youth to be relocated into environments that are completely different. Many of these migrant children have always lived in Florida and are hoping to be reunited with their families in the state. They are innocent children, already dealing with the stresses of being separated from their families. Dr. Lisa Gwynn, leader of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said to ABC Action News Tampa Bay “Our Governor has children himself. I just can’t imagine how this decision could be made knowing kids can’t speak for themselves, they need to be protected.”
Upbringing often shapes a child’s view of the world and disrupting their environment can have adverse effects on their mental health and state of being. The effect of moving is especially prominent with children older than 5 years. Most of the children that will be affected are 13 years or younger and their mental health is likely to be affected by the move.
This policy may deal with the problem of “border control”, but threatens the future of thousands of children. They deserve stability- something that moving them out of state is likely to attenuate.
The migrant children currently under the care of caregivers in Florida deserve happiness just as much as any other child in the country and even minimally reducing their chance at happiness is unjust.