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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why Are We Deporting These Parents of US Citizens?

Thanks to Rubén Rumbaut for pointing out to me an Op-Ed piece in today's New York Times written by Hirakazu Yoshikawa and Carola Suárez-Orozco. In the absence of any Congressional action on immigration reform, the Obama administration has been out there rounding up undocumented immigrants in unprecedented numbers, seemingly without regard to whether or not the people being deported are parents of US citizens.
Research by the Urban Institute and others reveals the deep and irreversible harm that parental deportation causes in the lives of their children. Having a parent ripped away permanently, without warning, is one of the most devastating and traumatic experiences in human development.
This is bad enough on the face of it, but it turns out to be even contrary to what President Obama said his administration was all about.
Last May, President Obama told an audience in El Paso that deportation of immigrants would focus on “violent offenders and people convicted of crimes; not families, not folks who are just looking to scrape together an income.”Two weeks ago, however, the Department of Homeland Security released a report that flatly belies the new policy.  From January to June 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 46,486 undocumented parents who claimed to have at least one child who is an American citizen.In contrast, in the entire decade between 1998 and 2007, about 100,000 such parents were removed. The extraordinary acceleration in the dismantling of these families, part of the government’s efforts to meet an annual quota of about 400,000 deportations, has had devastating results.
Now, to be sure, in the "old days" (a few decades ago) the children would have been deported along with parents. The government technically has no right to deport a US citizen without due process-- although this certainly happens on a regular basis--so it is administratively easier to deport the undocumented immigrants and leave the US citizen children behind in the US. After all, when the child reaches age 18, he or she can apply to have the parents legally admitted to the US (although that will be frowned upon since they have been deported...).

Yoshikawa and Suárez-Orozco draw on their research for the following observations about what is going on:
In the long run, the children of deportation face increased odds of lasting economic turmoil, psychic scarring, reduced school attainment, greater difficulty in maintaining relationships, social exclusion and lower earnings. The research also exposes major misconceptions about these parents.
First, statistics about those who were deported in 2011 show that 45 percent were not apprehended for any criminal offense. Those who were, were usually arrested for relatively minor offenses, not violent crimes.
Second, most American-born children of undocumented parents are not “anchor babies”; most of the parents have lived and worked in the United States for years before having their first child. “Birth tourism” is a xenophobic myth.
What can one say? It seems almost unbelievable that things like this can be happening. 

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