The Sad Fate of Some Immigrant Children when Parents are Detained

A report recently confirmed that the massive wave of deportations is separating families and relegating thousands of children to foster care. The Applied Research Center (ARC) spent a year researching the effects of immigration enforcement on families and the complications the system imposes on family reunification. ARC found that in the first six months of this year, the federal government removed more than 46,000 mothers and fathers of children born in the United States. As a consequence, at least 5,100 children of deported immigrants are currently living in foster care. The report tells the sad stories of working mothers being picked up by immigration agents and having their children sent to foster care without being given the chance to find alternative care. ICE then adds to the problem by sending detainees to far-away detention centers. Meanwhile, the children languish in foster care and impatient courts sometimes act to terminate parental rights that go uncontested by detained parents who are unable to fight back.

The practice of separating children from their parents and making reunification difficult goes against policies and practices that favor parents and leave separation as a last resort to protect the children. However, in the cases of immigrants, ARC found that the parents were perfectly capable of caring for their children but the practices of local and federal governments work against reunification. “Our research found time and again that families are being left out of decision-making when it comes to the care and custody of their children. As a result, children of detained and deported parents are likely to remain in foster care when they could be with their own family,” said Seth Freed Wessler, author and principal investigator of Shattered Families. ARC also found that the removal of many children began with the mother calling police for help in domestic abuse cases. ARC concluded, “many immigrant victims face an impossible choice: remain with an abuser or risk detention and the loss of their children.” ARC warns that unless policy changes are instituted, at least 15,000 more children will be separated from their parents. “Immigration enforcement greatly increases the chances that families will never see each other again,” said ARC president Rinki Sen. “Detaining and deporting parents shatter families and endanger the children left behind. It’s unacceptable, un-American, and a clear sign that we need to revisit our immigration policies.” This report has brought to light a terrible reality in which innocent children are forcedly separated from their families. We hope this report helps raise awareness enough to enlist the support of the American Civil Liberties Union and agencies capable of bringing pressure to bear so as to put a stop to the arbitrary and repugnant policies being pursued by some of our nation’s immigration officials.

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