Deportation disrupting lives for U.S. children
Voices intern Nicole Bibel guest blogs about a recent report on the impact of immigration enforcement policies
There are around 16 million “mixed status” families living in America, most of them U.S. citizen children and undocumented parents. They live in constant fear of being torn apart by deportation; this year alone, 46,000 parents of U.S. citizen children have been deported to Mexico.
A new report from the Center for American Progress shows the disruption deportation can bring. Most obvious is the fact that children are left without one, or even both of their parents. There are currently more than 5,000 children in the foster care system there solely because their parents, who had never been accused of abuse or neglect, are detained, arrested, or back in Mexico.
Other times, only one parent is deported, but the family still struggles greatly not only emotionally, but economically as well. Even children whose parents have not been detained are traumatized by the mere idea of it. The report details how children grow up fearing all law enforcement, and think that the word “immigrant,” even without the “illegal” modifier, is dirty and something to be ashamed of.
Another panelist, Miriam Yeung, spoke about the work of We Belong Together, an organization dedicated to keeping families whole. Their “A Wish for all Families” project last year collected 5,000 letters and pictures written by children whose lives had been impacted by deportation, and sent them to state and federal officials urging them to rethink laws that tear families apart and leave children in fear. Their goal for this year is 50,000 letters.
The speakers also spoke of possible solutions, or at least stop-gap measures, such as the Help Separated Families Act, which would ensure that children are not removed from the home simply because of their parents’ immigration status. As Ms. Yeung stated, “outcomes are better for kids when they’re with their families,” and we all need to work together to ensure this becomes a possibility for all children.