As child and family scholars, researchers and parents, we are gravely concerned about the impact of Arizona's new immigration law on the health and safety of children.

Tucson is less than an hour from some of the most controversial sections of the United States border with Mexico, and it is defined by the cultures of both countries.

Arizona has a duty to ensure the safety and health of its children, and it is clear to us that humane immigration reform is essential to meeting this responsibility.

Many continue to criticize SB 1070, even in its revised form, because of concerns that it will lead to fear or even racial hatred in our communities. According to the American Psychological Association, it may be nearly impossible to avoid racial profiling with this law.

Our research shows that discrimination and prejudice are already pervasive, insidious, negative influences on the health of children. It also shows that perceived lack of safety is associated with children's worsening mental and physical health, and poor school performance.

Our concerns for children are magnified by additional proposed laws SB 1097 and HB 2382, which would require the Arizona Department of Education "to collect and compile data relating to students who are enrolled in a public school and cannot prove their lawful presence in the United States."

According to the Arizona Department of Education, 41 percent of children in Arizona schools are Latino. They and their families may be wrongly targeted in spite of the fact that 92 percent of Latino children in the U.S. are citizens, according to the National Council of La Raza.

What does all of this mean for children and families?

We know firsthand that our children wonder about their safety, and the safety of their friends. We also realize that parents may fear arrest for assisting, caring for or transporting their children's friends. Breaking down children's support networks will lead only to further vulnerabilities among already distressed communities.

This emotionally charged law is already having negative impacts on children and parents on all sides of the immigration debate.

Meaningful reform must consider the dignity and complexity of family life, and the health and safety of children. It's time for a rational, healthy dialogue so that we can find humane ways of addressing immigration reform - for the sake of the children.

Stephen T. Russell is director of the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth, and Families at the University of Arizona. Andrea J. Romero is an associate professor of family studies and human development; and Mexican-American and raza studies at the UA.