If you deport the parents, let them take their kids with them. This may sound like common sense — and research shows that kids do better with their families than in foster care — but increasingly more children from across the United States are being separated from their families because their parents have been deported.
National research, conducted by the Applied Research Center between August 2010 and August 2011, and published on Colorlines.com (which is run by the Research Center) in November 2011 shows, for the first time, that the problem is happening widely.
At least 5,100 children whose parents are detained or deported are currently in foster care around the United States. And, in at least 22 states, children in foster care face boundaries to reunification with their detained or deported mothers and fathers.
In the past few years, a growing number of long-time residents with families are being deported while the kids are almost always placed in foster care. According to previously unreleased federal data obtained by the ARC, between January and June of 2011, the United States carried out more than 46,000 deportations of the parents of U.S.-citizen children, and almost one in four people deported in the last year was the mother or father of an American citizen.
The report discusses two explanations as to why this is happening:
- Local cops in many states that have signed agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are engaging in immigration enforcement;
- A controversial program called Secure Communities allows the ICE access to data on every person booked into a county jail.
The ARC’s research found that children in foster care in areas where officers perform immigration law enforcement functions, were almost 30 percent more likely to have a detained or deported parent than in other counties.
Most countries lack any formal policy for deported parents. In order to tackle this problem, the report says that federal, state and local governments must create explicit policies to protect families from separation.
The Obama administration did say that it plans to overhaul immigration detention practices, but as of August 2011, the ARC found that this promise had not taken effect in any significant way.
The full report lays out policy recommendations at all levels in the United States. The following are its suggestions for state child welfare departments and juvenile dependency courts to follow:
- State child welfare departments should initiate research to explore the extent to which children in foster care have detained or deported parents.
- All caseworkers, supervisors, attorneys and judges who practice in dependency court should be mandated to participate in training on immigration law and immigration enforcement policies.
- All state and/or county child welfare departments should sign agreements with foreign consulates to ensure that as soon as noncitizen parents of foster children are detained, consular
involvement is commenced.
- Adopt clear policies ensuring equal treatment of undocumented parents and families in the child welfare system, including clear guidelines on the rights of undocumented parents and extended families to be treated equitably as viable caregivers for children.
- Create state- or county-level staff positions dedicated to facilitating reunification for families impacted by immigration enforcement.
“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,” Cecilia Munoz, the administration’s top advisor on immigration, said in an interview aired on PBS’ “Frontline” in September.
To complete the study, ARC gathered county-level data from child welfare caseworkers, attorneys and judges in six states, which account for more than half of the non-citizen population in the United States and more than one-third of the children in foster care (Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina, New York and Texas.) Then ARC visited detention centers, conducted interviews and projected the prevalence of detained and deported parent cases in 14 other similarly situated states, including Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.
The full report is on the ARC website.
They also released a video about their report:
Image courtesy of Applied Research Center