"We're taking them where we take all the kids," an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer told Clara, an undocumented worker living in New Mexico, as he took away her 6- and 1-year-old little girls after a joint raid with the Drug Enforcement Agency turned up nothing in their trailer. Nothing, that is, except Clara and her sister's undocumented statuses. The two women asked if their children could stay with family or friends. The agents said no. Clara and her sister were transported first to a jail, then to an immigrant detention center, and eventually deported to Mexico. Their children were placed in foster care.
This is just one story of many from a startling new report issued by the Applied Research Center, which found that 46,000 parents of children born in the U.S. have been deported in the last six months, with many of them forced to leave their kids behind. Another 5,100 children of undocumented workers, an estimate that the ARC says is conservative, are currently in foster care and unlikely to see their deported parents again:
The data on parental deportations does not reveal how many children each of these parents had, or whether their children remained in the U.S. or left with their mothers and fathers. However, the Applied Research Center has also found a disturbing number of children languishing in foster care and separated from their parents for long periods. After a year-long national investigation, we estimate there are at least 5,100 children in foster care who face barriers to family reunification because their mother or father is detained or deported. That number could reach as high as 15,000 in the next five years, at the current rate of growth.
The rising number of parental deportations has corresponded with an overall increase in immigration enforcement under the Obama administration; in fiscal year 2011, a record 397,000 people were deported. Yet parental deportation has also increased as a proportion of all removals. Between 1998 and 2007, the last period for which similar data is available, approximately 8 percent of almost 2.2 million removals were parents of U.S.-citizen children. The new data, released to the Applied Research Center in September, reveals that more than 22 percent of all people deported in the first half of this year were parents of citizen kids.
If rates of parental deportation remain steady in the year to come, the country will remove about as many parents in just two years as it did in the ten-year period ICE tracked previously. The number of children of non-citizens placed in the U.S. child welfare system will no doubt shoot up as well. Already, according to our research, one in 16 kids in Los Angeles' child welfare system are the children of detained or deported parents. Certain jurisdictions on the U.S.-Mexico border and at least one Florida county included in our field research had even higher rates.
ARC has another report coming out next week, which I'll post when I read it. More Reason on immigration.