Over the next five years, at least 15,000 American children face being separated from their parents because of immigration enforcement.
That’s one finding from a new report “Shattered Families” that examines the intersection of immigration enforcement and the child welfare system. It’s from The Applied Research Center, a 30-year-old racial justice think tank that uses media, research and activism to promote solutions.
The report has also found that:
The report found that in many cases, ICE was detaining victims of family and gender-based violence whose children then entered foster care and subsequently lost their children.
Victims of domestic violence and human trafficking are often isolated from their networks because traffickers and abusers cut them off from families and friends. As a result, if they are detained by ICE, their children may have no other family or close family friends who are available to care for them.
Many of these women should have been protected from detention in the first place, because victims of crimes can apply for visas because Federal law maintains specific categories of visas for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking in particular. ICE is supposed to take special consideration for these victims, but the report finds that they appear to be being detained in immigration detention centers with disturbing regularity and for extended periods.
A parents’ attorney in Maricopa County, Arizona, described a case in which a report of domestic violence caused the initiation of the CPS case and a mother’s arrest and detention:
I have a Mexican immigrant client detained by ICE for a year. She was a [domestic violence] victim and the police got involved and that’s when they found out that she was undocumented and so they had to go ahead and detain her. Eventually, they released her and permitted her to stay here in the U.S. based on a Violence Against Women Act visa. But the fact that she was detained by ICE was enough to push the kids into foster care.
Her kids were in care for a whole year and there was no other family to take them. Now CPS is trying to help her get her sons back but the process is slow.
Hilaria was arrested in Phoenix, Arizona because she tried to defend herself against her abusive husband. In October 2010, her husband attacked her and she says she fought back, drawing blood. A neighbor heard screams and called the police. When officers arrived, they arrested Hilaria for assault. ICE quickly detained her.
Since their children were home at the time of the report, the police called CPS. When the CPS caseworker arrived, the officers and Hilaria’s husband said that Hilaria was the assailant, so the caseworker left the children with the husband. Two weeks later, the child welfare department returned to check on the children. The caseworker suspected that Hilaria’s husband was using drugs and removed the children from him, placing them in foster care.
Two months later, sitting in a visitation room over an hour from her children, Hilaria said tearfully:
“I’ve had domestic violence before but I took it for my kids. Now they’ve robbed me. I did what I did to defend myself and my kids.”
Image byShattered Families cover
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