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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Immigrant and Undocumented Families and Children

The Day without Immigrants inspired me to research Immigration Law and Policy so that I could better understand what EXACTLY has been going on and why so many people are outraged by the latest Immigration pushes by the Trump Administration.  What I learned is that there is wayyyyy too much information to cover in just one post, so I will turn this into a series of posts.  This post will be my next in this mini-series (See also my post on Xenophobia , The History of Immigration Policy, and my reaction to The Day without Immigrants) focusing on Immigrant and Undocumented Families and Children.

Immigration in the United States can be simplified into 3 different sub-categories: family-based, employment-based, and Refugees or Asylees.  Each type of immigration category has a limit on the number of approved admissions and each country has a total admissions limit.  Each President determines annually (usually in cooperation with Congress) what these limits will be.  For a full list of immigration statistics by year, please refer to the  Department of Homeland Security's page.
Presidents have taken varying views on which types of immigration (and deportations) should be considered priorities.  In times of conflict or when specific countries are facing human rights atrocities, a president can increase the number of Refugees or Asylees taken in from those counties.  The U.S. Department of State has these numbers broken down by year.  Another great source for seeing these numbers broken down by nationality and region is from the Refugee Processing Center.

I’d like to focus specifically on Family-Based Immigration because I believe this could perhaps be the most important topic on Immigration in terms of its direct impact on our children.  If you live in a metropolitan area, like we do, you probably have a large immigrant (largely Hispanic) population.  My children have many friends who are immigrants from a Central American country. 


Thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1982, undocumented children and young adults have equal rights to attend public primary and secondary schools as U.S. Citizen children.  Not only does this ruling allow undocumented children to attend public schools, it also make attending school required under State Law.  These children are not only our children’s friends, but they were our friends since 1982.

President Obama did two very important things for undocumented immigrant families and children.  First, he issued an executive order protecting high school and young college aged undocumented immigrants from deportation (coined the “DREAMers Act”).  The Second, a important directive about undocumented immigrants called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) .  This immigration policy essentially protects undocumented immigrant parents and children from deportation (by making them no longer “priority” deportees) and provides eligibility for a work permit. Interestingly, according to ABC News and regardless of the policies protecting undocumented immigrants, President Obama deported more people than any president previously.  The data released by the government stated that between 2009 and 2015 President Obama deported 2.5 million people, 91% of those deportees had been previously convicted of a crime.  It’s important to note that these numbers do not reflect deportations in President Obama’s last year in office.  Comparatively, President George W. Bush deported just over 2 million people in the combined 8 years of his presidency.  So, while Obama was working to support (by not making them a deportation priority) undocumented children and families, he was also working hard to crack-down on law-breaking undocumented immigrants, to which he was more successful than previous presidents.


So, here are the nitty-gritty complications relating to Family-Based Immigration and its accompanying acts and Executive Orders… There are moral and ethical issues to be taken into account.  Children born in the United States are U.S. Citizens, they are granted this by the 14th Amendment.  This is regardless of their parent’s immigration status.  While these children are not eligible for deportation, their undocumented parents are.  As a child, could you imagine having your parent taken away from you? As a U.S. Citizen, can you imagine having your family members taken away from you?  I cannot imagine the daily fear that these children and families live in.  Silently afraid.  The little girl that sits next your child in science class, the little boy on their soccer team, the child you see walking to their car in the school pick-up line… any of these children could be facing this emotional duress on a daily basis. 



There are economic issues to be considered.  Imagine for a moment, your child’s friend (whose parents are undocumented immigrants) are deported.  They have the choice of taking their U.S. Citizen children back to their country of origin (where they will presumably apply to come back to the U.S. but will probably not be approved because of their previous deportation) OR they can choose to leave their child in the U.S. and themselves be deported.  What would happen to these children? Remember, these are U.S. Citizens, entitled to all the benefits there-in.  If their parents cannot find (or have previously established) a guardian for their child(ren) then these children become wards-of-the-state (ie. Foster Children).  They are not 100% financially unsupported by their parents (whom presumably were working, making money on their work permits, and paying into the tax system) AND they are 100% supported by the U.S. government. According to The National Center for Child Welfare Excellence  upwards of 17 children are placed into foster care on a daily basis because their parents have been deported. The Child Welfare League of America estimates that it costs $36,500 per year for each child in Institutional Care.  That's roughly $226 million a year.  A YEAR!  This couldn’t possibly be more economically viable than allowing undocumented parents to remain in the United States on work permits! 

Under Obama’s directive, these undocumented parents were not a priority for deportation (ie, they weren’t specifically targeted) unless they were violent or felony offenders.  In fact, if they came forward as undocumented immigrants they received work permits as parents of protected children.  This gave a potentially false security to undocumented families, because now they were “day lighted” undocumented immigrants. While this protection lasted through President Obama’s administration, it had come into question in the Trump Administration. 

According to CNN,  the Trump Administration Department of Homeland Security issued a memos today that confirmed that President Obama’s Executive Orders (the DREAMers Act and DACA) wouldn’t be dismantled, in contrast to many Republicans who want to cut both programs completely.  Those memos were quickly clarified when White House Press Secretary stated that “Everyone who is here illegally is subject to removal at any time” but that those who have committed a crime would be considered priority.  Here’s the loophole: many undocumented parents have been convicted of falsifying records in an effort to get work or apply for child services (such as Medicaid).  Those parents are technically considered criminals under the Trump Administration’s definition (remember previously that the Obama Administration stated that they would focus primarily on felons and violent offenders only (not misdemeanor crimes like document falsification, which is considered a “white collar crime” subject to a fine and sometimes minor jail time).  We have already seen deportations of parents (and children) who are only guilty of misdemeanors. 


What are your thoughts?  Are misdemeanors like document falsification enough to warrant deportation of undocumented parents? Do you think that the financial burdens of supporting these children after their parents have been deported is better than having their parents here to work to support them?  Do you or your children have firsthand experience with this topic?  Please share your RESPECTFUL comments below.

4 comments:

  1. It's such a sad time. Thanks for posting this in an attempt to understand and share that info. From what I understand, it's a difficult process to attain legal immigration, and that complicates things.

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    1. It's not only difficult but it's an incredibly lengthy process often taking years. There seems to be some leeway with student immigrants coming to college in the US, but it's a very restricted permit that they come here on.

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  2. I love that your posting about this. I am so sad watching the news and I think the more people know about what is going on the better.

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    1. Agreed. We can only hope to help the situation if we first make sure that we are well educated on the issues.

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