The Often Sad Fate of U.S.-Born Children of Undocumented Parents

It is an undisputable fact that deportation has a particularly devastating impact on the families that are affected by it. When undocumented parents are deported, they face impossible decisions about whether their family will be separated or whether the children who are U.S. citizens will be deported along with their parents. A new report by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shows the extent of this issue, finding that between January and June 2011, ICE deported over 46,000 immigrants who claimed to have at least one U.S. citizen child. The report is part of an effort to collect more information tracking the deportation of immigrants with U.S.-born children. In addition to the 46,486 parents removed during this time, ICE sought final orders of deportation, exclusion, or removal for 39,918 parents of U.S. citizens, with nearly 22,000 of the orders having actually gone through.

In January 2012 a report titled “Shattered Families” from the Applied Research Center found that over 5,100 children of immigrants have ended up in foster care after their parents had been detained or deported. Needless to say, this is the result of a devastating decision having been made by parents who were fearful of bringing their U.S.-born children back with them to their country of origin. Given this potentially dangerous fate, many people are hoping that new guidelines on the exercise of prosecutorial discretion will allow immigrant families to remain together in this country. Parents of U.S. citizen children can make the case for relief from deportation, but only if they can demonstrate they have been in the U.S. for a long period of time and can make a compelling case for remaining here. It is important that the ICE directive on prosecutorial discretion spare long-time residents from deportation so that they can instead concentrate their resources on removing serious criminals. Not only does this policy issue have a serious effect on families, it also causes a wide range of problems for our society and our country as s whole. U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), underscores the importance this issue poses on our country when he said “we are putting our future at risk every day that we delay serious reform and continue shoveling more good people into deportation and their children into foster care.” Families who are composed of children who are born in this country and parents who are undocumented face the impossibly sad prospect of being forcibly separated from their loved ones and it is a very unfortunate reality. Hopefully, the new ICE policy directive that sets to deport those who pose a high risk for our country prevents this unfortunate fate from occurring to more parents and their children.

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