Truman National Security Project

Broken Immigration System Continues to Separate Families

By Chuck Rocha | 4.30.13

While driving to visit her sister, Ana Canenguez, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador and California resident for 15 years, was pulled over by a police officer because of a broken head light. After failing to provide documentation, she was sent to the nearest deportation center. Three hours later, Ana was deported back to her country without saying goodbye to her five children.

In the wake of immigration arrests, law enforcers often don’t allow detained immigrant parents the opportunity to make proper arrangements for the care of their children. Kids can come home from school, only to find their mothers and fathers gone.

According to the Applied Research Center’s report “Shattered Families,” at least 5,000 children of immigrants live in foster care because their parents were detained or deported. If this trend continues, the center estimates, 15,000 more children over the next five years will be ripped away from their mothers and fathers as a result of federal immigration enforcement actions.

As Congress looks toward meaningful immigration reform, we must not neglect one of the most heartbreaking problems within the current, broken system: what happens to children when their parents or guardians are deported. Even though the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, have told roughly 150,000 undocumented young people they can stay in the states, it does not resolve the issue of family separation.

The comprehensive immigration reform bill crafted by the “gang of eight” Senators includes a provision to reunite families separated by immigration detention and deportation. It also includes provisions to keep U.S. citizen children of deported parents from languishing in foster care, and to protect deportees from losing parental rights. The stories of the dreamers and the deported are key players for pushing immigration reform.

America is a nation founded upon an idea that all women and men are created equal. How we treat new immigrants reflects our commitment to the values that define America as a nation. This is why it’s imperative that we fix our broken immigration system. We must NOT forget that at one point everyone’s family came to this country to pursue the American dream. We must not turn our backs on people trying to better their lifestyle and children’s future.

Chuck Rocha is a CNP Fellow for the American Workforce.