In an early November briefing with Latino journalists, President Obama directly acknowledged that his administration’s immigration enforcement practices break up families and exclude parents from decisions about the custody of their children. “It’s a real problem,” the President said.
- There are at least 5,100 children currently living in foster care who are prevented from uniting with their detained or deported parents.
- The problem is national, not one confined to border jurisdictions or states.
- Families are more likely to be separated where local police aggressively participate in immigration enforcement.
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention obstructs participation in Child Protective Services’ plans for family unity.
- Most child welfare departments lack systemic policies to keep families united when parents are detained or deported.
The report found that in many cases, ICE was detaining victims of domestic violence and human trafficking whose children then entered foster care and they subsequently lost their children.
Andrea Garcia, a Los Angeles immigration attorney told the rally:
Not only have I seen families destroyed and children left without mothers, but our system of justice is being destroyed with all these detentions and deportations.
Our courts cannot handle it. Our detention centers do not have enough space for people. And we’re just pumping more and more money into detaining and deporting people who are not criminals.
The president told the Latino journalists that parents should have access to their children if they are detained and that he has directed the Department of Homeland Security to examine its family unification practices to ensure that happens.
“I think we have to keep putting pressure on those responsible for administering the program, to make sure that children aren’t torn from their parents without due process and the possibility to stay with their children,” the President said.
New guidance for Homeland Security is supposed to ensure that criminals are prioritized and discretion is practiced in non-criminal immigration cases.
But in interviews with Colorlines.com, immigration attorneys and advocates around the country say that they have not seen any significant increase in the use of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) discretion to release parents.
Image byShattered Families cover