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U.S. Deports 46K Parents With Citizen Kids in Just Six Months

We'e seen a striking increase in the rate of removals of parents, raising serious concerns about the impact of these deportations on children, many of whom are left behind.

Between January and June of 2011, the United States carried out more than 46,000 deportations of the parents of U.S.-citizen children, according to previously unreleased  federal data obtained by’s publisher, the Applied Research Center. The figures reflect a striking increase in the rate of removals of parents and raise serious concerns about the impact of these deportations on children, many of whom are left behind.

Congress demanded two years ago that the Department of Homeland Security begin to compile this data by July 2010, but it had not been made available to the public. The Applied Research Center obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request. 

The data on parental deportations does not reveal how many children each of these parents had, or whether their children remained in the U.S. or left with their mothers and fathers. However, the Applied Research Center has also found a disturbing number of children languishing in foster care and separated from their parents for long periods. After a year-long national investigation, we estimate there are at least 5,100 children in foster care who face barriers to family reunification because their mother or father is detained or deported. That number could reach as high as 15,000 in the next five years, at the current rate of growth.

The rising number of parental deportations has corresponded with an overall increase in immigration enforcement under the Obama administration; in fiscal year 2011, a record 397,000 people were deported. Yet parental deportation has also increased as a  proportion of all removals. Between 1998 and 2007, the last period for which  similar data is available, approximately 8 percent of almost 2.2 million removals were parents of U.S.-citizen children. The new data, released to the Applied Research Center in September, reveals that more than 22 percent of all people deported in the first half of this year were parents of citizen kids. 

If rates of parental deportation remain steady in the year to come, the country will remove about as many parents in just two years as it did in the ten-year period ICE tracked previously. The number of children of non-citizens placed in the U.S. child welfare system will no doubt shoot up as well. Already, according to our research, one in 16 kids in Los Angeles’ child welfare system are the children of detained or deported parents. Certain jurisdictions on the U.S.-Mexico border and at least one Florida county included in our field research had even higher rates.

The Obama administration has accepted the deportation of parents as an acceptable consequence of its immigration enforcement policy. In an interview aired on PBS’ “Frontline” last month, Cecilia Munoz, the administration’s top advisor on immigration, said that unless Congress passes a comprehensive immigration reform bill to provide a path to lawful status for undocumented immigrants, the deportation of parents will continue.

“At the end of the day, when you have immigration law that’s broken and you have a community of 10 million, 11 million people living and working in the United States illegally, some of these things are going to happen,” said Munoz.

dpr_parents_deported.gif“Even if the law is executed with perfection, there will be parents separated from their children,” Munoz added. “It is a result of having a broken system of laws.”

The Obama administration has been clear that ICE holds vast power to determine who it will and will not detain and deport. In July, ICE director John Morton released a memo affirming that agents have discretion in enforcement decisions. The memo instructed agents to consider “whether the person has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, child, or parent” when determining who to detain or deport.

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