A new investigation from the Applied Research Center and Colorlines.com reveals a scary new trend: children placed in the foster care system, or even up for adoption, when their parents are detained or deported because of immigration violations.
According to over 100 child welfare caseworkers and attorneys we interviewed around the country, as rates of deportations increase, so do the numbers of children from immigrant families in foster care. Indeed, federal data released to the Applied Research Center through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that almost one in four people deported in the last year was the mother or father of a United States citizen.
Roberta is one such parent. Almost a year ago, she was arrested on a drunken driving charge that would likely have triggered only a short interruption in her child custody, if she were a citizen. Instead, it threatens to result in the termination of the 35-year-old’s parental rights, because she is an undocumented immigrant and was deported after being charged. Her five young children are now in two different foster homes in Phoenix. Separated from them by the U.S.-Mexico border, Roberta cannot make the journey back to fight for her kids.
These are the kinds of stories I can’t read without getting chills. It’s so abhorrent, on so many levels, how our broken immigration system is destroying our society. Promoting hatred, zenophobia and racism, the immigration crackdown carried out under President Obama is absolutely destroying a foundation of our society, the supposed “American Dream.” Now it’s even permanently separating parents and children.
I am not a lawyer, but I know that the way immigration infractions are treated does not match how those infractions should be treated under the law. I can only imagine how traumatic it must be for these families to be forcibly separated, often in the middle of the night by ICE officers wielding weapons.
The bottom line is this:
Whatever the state of the debate, or rancor, over who should and should not be allowed to live in the U.S., the moral and bureaucratic fallout of deporting 400,000 people a year are accumulating to toxic levels. Child welfare caseworkers say that in the face of an opaque detention system, they are helpless to reunify families. And although federal law requires child welfare departments to make diligent efforts toward family reunification, when parents are detained that’s basically impossible.
After undocumented immigrants have been deported, their fight to get their children back with them becomes even more difficult. Their findings are absolutely horrifying, and completely hidden in the dialogue about immigration reform.
Read the full investigation here.
Update: Eesha covered this same report yesterday. It’s so important we needed to write about it twice!