Families Still Being Devastated by Parent Deportations

In a recent report on immigration released by the Department of Homeland Security, statistics overwhelmingly show that immigration officials are not evenly applying new enforcement guidelines in deportation cases. In August 2011, The Obama Administration pledged to suspend deportation proceedings for immigrants with strong ties to their communities, saying they would review cases pending in court and close those cases they deemed “low priority.” With the latest findings from the DHS report, this pledge from the White House appears to be in serious jeopardy–as does the well-being of immigrant families everywhere.

According to a recent op-ed published in the New York Times, (Deporting Parents Hurts Kids, Hirokazu Yoshikawa and Carola Suarez-Orozco, April 20, 2012), during a six month period in 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 46, 486 undocumented parents—parents who also claimed to have at least one child who is an American citizen.

Research by the Urban Institute and others reveals the deep and irreversible harm that parental deportation causes in the lives of their children. Having a parent ripped away permanently, without warning, is one of the most devastating and traumatic experiences in human development.

These children experience immediate household crises, starting with the loss of parental income. The harsh new economic reality causes housing and food insecurity. In response to psychological and economic disruptions, children show increased anxiety, frequent crying, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, withdrawal and anger.

In the long run, the children of deportation face increased odds of lasting economic turmoil, psychic scarring, reduced school attainment, greater difficulty in maintaining relationships, social exclusion and lower earnings. The research also exposes major misconceptions about these parents.

The story of Sara Martinez, also highlighted in the NYT op-ed, is certainly what the Obama Administration would classify a “low-priority case.”  According to a March press release by the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), Sara was picked up by Border Patrol agents on a Greyhound bus in Rochester NY last year. She is the sole caretaker of her 7-year-old U.S. citizen daughter. Although she clearly falls within the new guidelines, Sara faces deportation back to her native Ecuador despite having no criminal record and strong ties to the U.S. (Read the full press release here.) Sara has appealed to ICE three times for relief under the new prosecutorial discretion policy.  And she has three times been denied.  According to the latest NYIC update on her case, advocates are asking people to contact ICE Director John Morton immediately.  You can learn more about how to take action by visiting this NYIC link: http://www.thenyic.org/actionalert/callICE-for-SaraMartinez

The Applied Research Center released a report (Shattered Families, November 2011) about the real harms that come to families when immigration enforcement and the child welfare system intersect. You can read the full report here: http://arc.org/shatteredfamilies


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