Right now, immigrant families are facing a period of heightened persecution and crisis as President Trump has already begun to deliver on his campaign promises on mass deportation. What we are witnessing is a nationwide immigration crackdown that is tearing families apart. ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials and local law enforcement are becoming increasingly emboldened to target and track down non-citizens at their homes, schools, places of worship, and courthouses. Deportations shatter families and endanger the children left behind, many of whom will never see their parents again.
Race Forward’s 2011 Shattered Families report found that there were at least 5,100 children living in foster care in the United States because their parents had been detained or deported. The report also found tens of thousands more children would be at risk over the coming years if ICE and child welfare policies and practices didn't change. Given this latest wave of ICE arrests we have every reason to believe that number is increasing by the day.
The year after we released Shattered Families: The Perilous Intersection of Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System, deportations under President Obama hit a record high of 409,849. As reported in Race Forward’s daily news site, Colorlines, over 46,000 parents of U.S.-citizen children were deported in the first six months of 2011 alone. While the yearly number of deportations decreased steadily throughout Obama’s final term in office, we are now reversing course with a new administration that is committed to deporting as many people as possible through rampant and reckless means.
The collision of ICE, law enforcement, and child welfare agencies in a family’s life results essentially in the United States separating thousands of children from loving families. While the only real answer to this crisis is an end to mass deportation, it’s imperative that we ensure families are kept together and protect children from the trauma of being ripped away from their parents.
Federal, state and local governments must create explicit policies to protect families from separation. These policies should stop the clock on the child welfare process and the immigration enforcement process to ensure that families can stay together and allow parents to make the best decisions for the care and custody of their children.