Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

A growing number of deported parents

A man in Playas de Tijuana, on the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border fence, September 2008
A man in Playas de Tijuana, on the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border fence, September 2008
Photo by Brian Auer/Flickr (Creative Commons)
A man in Playas de Tijuana, on the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border fence, September 2008
Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

A post last week examined an attempt by some California lawmakers to keep the children of deported immigrants out of foster care, a growing problem as record deportations lead to more separated families. It briefly cited a new federal report on deported parents that had just begun trickling out to legislators.

The details of the report, now making the rounds, are impressive. During the period between January 1, 2011 and June 30, 2011, according to the report, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 46,486 immigrants from the country who claimed to be the parent of at least one U.S. citizen child.

The seven-page report to Congress is part of a federal response to lawmakers seeking more data from ICE on deported parents of U.S. citizen children. Interestingly, it cites a Homeland Security estimate from 2009 that tallied more than 100,000 parents of U.S. citizen children removed between 1998 and 2007. Spread out over several years, that's a relatively low number in comparison. Since then, as deportations have increased, so naturally have the deportations of parents.

There are several charts, including one listing final orders of deportation obtained for the parents of U.S. citizen children by district (1,496 in Los Angeles over a six month period) and another of final deportation orders sought in that period for parents of U.S. children (39,918 nationwide).

The more than 46,000 removals of parents tracked in the first half of last year include not only formal deportations and removals (including voluntary departures), but expedited removals (which allow people to be removed without the decision of an immigration judge) and exclusions, a term that used to apply to a formal denial of entry, but is now applied to some removal proceedings.

The emerging crisis as removals have hit record highs under the Obama administration is what to do with the children of the immigrants who are deported or detained. In a best-case scenario, a second parent will remain in the United States, preferably legally, or the children can at least stay with relatives. Other times, deported parents opt to take their U.S.-born children with them.

But when relatives can’t be located, or the parents are shuffled off quickly into the immigrant detention system, the kids can land in foster care. Once this happens, these immigrants can lose their parental rights, as detainees in custody are hard pressed to meet the requirements established by child welfare agencies, such as attending case meetings or court proceedings. If they don’t meet the terms within the timelines set, their parental rights can be terminated.

Last fall, the social justice magazine ColorLines reported that more than 5,000 children were in foster care following the detention or deportation of their immigrant parents.

Earlier this month in California, a state Senate committee voted in favor of a bill that would to help some immigrants in deportation hold onto their children through the process. Known as SB 1064, the bill proposes authorizing courts to extend the review hearing period in child welfare cases involving parents who are immigrant detainees, among other things. Were the bill to become law, it would be the first measure of its kind in the country.

The entire ICE report can be read here.