More than 72,000 Parents Cruelly Ripped Away from Children by U.S. Immigration
Recent stories about the surge of unaccompanied children trying to cross the U.S. border only tell one part of the sad immigration story. Washington's cruel immigration politices are separating tens of thousands of parents from their children who are living here perfectly legally. According to a report obtained by the Huffington Post, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last year carried out more than 72,000 deportations of parents who said they had U.S.-born children.
This startlingly high number comes from reports sent by ICE in April to the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Judiciary Committee, which lay out 72,410 removals of immigrants who said they had one or more U.S.-born children in 2013. Children born in the U.S. are automatically granted citizenship, but millions of them (approximately 4.5 million according to a report by Human Impact Partners), have at least one, sometimes two parents who are undocumented. The reports emerge precisely at a time when President Obama faces increasing pressure to change immigration policies in order to keep families together, and the House completely stalls immigration reform. The Republicans nonsensically accuse the president of being lax on enforcement of existing immigration laws, when in fact Obama has presided over some two million deportations, often for the flimsiest of reasons (being stopped without a license, or some other truly minor infraction.)
When parents are deported, the child faces the wrenching decision of whether to leave with them, or stay in the U.S., the only home they have ever known. In the best case—but still heartbreaking—scenario, they stay with another parent or family member, but some of these forcibly orphaned children end up in U.S. foster care.
According to HuffPo, advocates for halting some deportations have pointed to cases involving parents of children who are U.S. citizens, saying parents should not be separated from their children except in extreme circumstances. Many of the parents who were deported had been convicted of a crime, but more than 10,000 had no criminal convictions. ICE cryptically says they may have fit other "priorities for removal." Critics say that ICE lumps these "priorities" together with both low-level misdemeanors and more serious crimes, and gives no details about the crimes that may have been committed.
ICE said 71,214 parents of U.S.-born children who were deported fit its priorities. The priorities include convicted criminals, people caught attempting to enter the country illegally, people who had returned after a previous deportation, and people who failed to report to ICE after a deportation order, according to the report. Because some people may have been deported more than once, the figures reflect total removals, not the exact number of individuals who were deported. The numbers do not include deportations of parents who fail to tell agents they have U.S.-born children, or parents whose foreign-born children are undocumented.
Notably, many of the parents who attempt to enter the country more than once illegally are simply trying to reunite with their children.
Colorlines reported in December 2012 that more than 200,000 removals of parents of U.S.-born children had occurred from July 1, 2010, to Sept. 31, 2012, based on a Freedom of Information Act request.
Huffpo received a statement from an ICE spokesman on Wednesday insisting that the agency "is sensitive to the fact that encountering those who violate our immigration laws may impact families."
"We work with individuals in removal proceedings to ensure they have ample opportunity to make important decisions regarding the care and custody of their children," the ICE spokesman said in a statement. "For parents who are ordered removed, it is their decision whether or not to relocate their children with them. If parents choose to take their children with them, ICE assists in every way possible including helping to obtain travel documents for the minors or, when possible, allow for the family’s voluntary departure."