Once again, advocates, activists, and immigrants themselves are being told to wait for action on immigration reform because making sure that the country doesn’t fall off that fiscal cliff is taking priority. In the meantime, the human rights crisis for immigrant communities and the families that create them grows and being thrown off that cliff are parents and children. Between July 1, 2010, and Sept. 31, 2012, nearly 23 percent of all deportations—or, 204,810 deportations—were issued for parents with U.S. citizen children, according to federal data unearthed through a Freedom of Information Act request.
These numbers as first reported by the Applied Research Center’s Colorlines, do not tell the whole story. The total number of deportations of parents may be higher because some mothers and fathers fear telling authorities that they have kids. An additional group of parents whose kids are not U.S. citizens are not reflected in the numbers. Even so, these numbers are being released reluctantly by the U.S. government perhaps because of the reality they reflect. In 2009, Immigration and Customs Enforcement was ordered by Congress to to compile data on parental deportation beginning on July 1, 2010, and to release it every six months. Since then, however, the federal government has released figures just once, and only for the first six months of 2011.
What happens to these U.S. citizen children is unclear but a 2011 report released by The Applied Research Center gives a clue. According to “Shattered Families” enforcement policies like Secure Communities and 287(g) puts 15,000 additional children for placement into the foster care system. In counties where local police have signed 287(g) agreements with ICE, children in foster care were, on average, about 29 percent more likely to have a detained or deported parent than in other counties. Because of the long amount of time it often takes for immigration matters to be resolved, children lose the opportunity to ever see their parents again when a juvenile dependency court terminates parental rights. In that same report, ARC conservatively estimates that there are at least 5,100 children currently living in foster care whose parents have been either detained or deported.
Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network responded to the new numbers in a statement, “Statistics like the number of parents deported over the past two years would be shocking if such news weren’t so commonplace under this administration. As the President prepares to push Congress for immigration reform, he would be right to push his own agencies to clean up their practices and reverse the policies, like Secure Communities, that have led to so many shattered families.”