As U.S. deportations reach historic levels, more and more children are being separated from their parents, according to a recently released Applied Research Center report.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, ARC obtained data showing that in the first six months of 2011, the United States deported more than 46,000 mothers and fathers whose children have American citizenship. In all, ARC estimated there are more than 5,000 children in the U.S. foster care system as the result of having their parents deported.
While families are most likely to be separated in states with aggressive immigration enforcement policies, ARC pointed out that the problem is widespread, with 22 states reporting cases in which deportations have resulted in children entering foster care.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency recently announced it oversaw the deportation of 396,906 individuals in fiscal year 2011, which is the largest single-year number of deportations in ICE’s history. Of these deportations, 1,119 were individuals convicted of homicide and 5,848 were sexual offenders, according to ICE.
While immigration rights groups have generally supported ICE’s focus on deporting criminal offenders as opposed to prosecuting low-priority cases, some critics have voiced concerns that certain immigration enforcement programs penalize anyone who enters the U.S. justice system, including witnesses and victims. The ARC report provided some support for this criticism, stating that illegal immigrants who report domestic violence are sometimes swept into deportation proceedings and are ultimately separated from their children.
Reunification is highly uncertain for families torn apart by deportation, according to ARC, which called on federal, state and local authorities to institute policies to mitigate family separations.
“Immigration enforcement greatly increases the chances that families will never see each other again,” said Rinku Sen, president of ARC. “Detaining and deporting parents shatter families and endanger children left behind. It’s unacceptable, un-American and a clear sign that we need to revisit our immigration policies.”