An unprecedented increase in the deportation of undocumented immigrants has left an estimated 5,100 children languishing in U.S. foster homes according to a November report from a New York-based advocacy group. The Obama administration deported 46,000 parents of children who are U.S. citizens in the first six months of 2011, the ARC report says. Government data shows a total of 397,000 deportations in 2011, with half involving people with criminal records.
"This means that almost one in four people deported is the parent of a United States citizen child;" Thousands of children enter the child welfare system and are often stuck there." After parents are deported families remain separated for long periods, with child welfare agencies and juvenile courts often moving to terminate the parental rights of deported immigrants. Children who don't have other immediate family are then put up for adoption.
Mother deported, children put in foster care
ABC News highlighted the problem of children of deported parents on February 2…. the police came for Amelia Reyes Jimenez in 2008 to arrest her for one count of child endangerment, a misdemeanor, because she had left her 13-year-old son Cesar, who is severely disabled, alone in her apartment. Jimenez says she thought that Cesar was with her two older daughters and their father, but he had taken the girls to the park and left Cesar home alone.
When she arrived home with baby daughter Erica in her arms, she found the police waiting. "The only thing they asked was if I was illegal and whether or not I had my papers," she said. She told them she had no papers. She was handcuffed. Reyes Jimenez was sent to a detention center an hour outside Phoenix. It would be six months before she had any contact with her children, and nearly two years before she would see them again in person.
"I didn't know anything about my girls; they didn't give me any reasons," she said. "I would ask about them and nobody would answer." Reyes Jimenez, who pled guilty to the misdemeanor, then spent nearly two years fighting deportation. Ultimately, she was loaded onto a bus and deported. The children were lost in foster care.
The one stated goal on immigration law is family reunification. Immigration law has a tremendous effect on the family and the decision about where to live. But the goals of the family and the immigration law are often in conflict. When a parent is undocumented and the child is a US citizen it often results in wrenching heartbreak that no parent should have to endure.
The quota system keeps families apart
The snail’s pace of the quota system often results in families being separated for many years. Even for smaller Caribbean islands with short waiting lists, it can take up to 10 years to sponsor a brother or sister. Often keeping the family together can only be achieved in violation of immigration law.
The situation of the Jimenez family serves as a vivid example of the conflict between immigration law and family integrity. US born children have the legal right to remain but their parents who are illegal will be subject to deportation. No matter which side of the issue you’re on, we can all agree that there is something wrong with kicking American children out of their own country because a parent is undocumented.