ICE Deports Children, Disabled and Domestic Violence Victims

For the past several months, the Obama administration has relentlessly professed its commitment to targeting only the most dangerous “criminal aliens.” But a new report released this week by the Immigration Policy Center suggests that misguided Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) polices render the administration virtually powerless to fulfill its promise.

As Braden Goyette at Campus Progress reports, ICE’s practice of outsourcing immigration enforcement to local police through the 287(g) and Secure Communities programs undermines the administration’s stated priority of deporting “the worst of the worst.” She writes:

By using these partnerships to increase its deportation figures, the federal government gives up control over front-line enforcement to local police, opening up the door to subjective judgment calls — essentially, all of the problems that plague everyday policing.

Law enforcement charged with enforcing immigration laws — particularly in areas where heavy enforcement is politically popular — routinely make discretionary arrests in direct defiance of the Obama administration’s stated priorities. As a result, tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants have been deported because of minor crimes, such as traffic offenses.

A bigger issue, though, is that ICE’s enforcement programs are fundamentally out of line with the Obama administration’s avowed commitment to targeting criminals. The Secure Communities program, which requires local law enforcement agencies to share fingerprints with ICE, is a key example of this disconnect. The program routinely nets even the victims of violent crime. Secure Communities is expanding rapidly, despite its deviance from the agency’s stated objective of pursuing criminals.

ICE programs target domestic violence victims

Elise Foley at the Washington Independent reports that one issue arising with Secure Communities is the detention and deportation of undocumented victims of domestic violence, whose fingerprints have been entered into police records.

Foley notes that, in response to one such incident, ICE officials told the Washington Post that they would pursue action on all undocumented immigrants brought to their attention, in spite of agency directives:

“ICE cannot and will not turn a blind eye to those who violate federal immigration law,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Brian Hale. “While ICE’s enforcement efforts prioritize convicted criminal aliens, ICE maintains the discretion to take action on any alien it encounters.”

Of course, ICE can exercise discretion by refusing to take action against victims of violent crime — particularly since doing so defies the administration’s stated goals — but chooses not to. And, without laws in place that clearly limit the scope of ICE’s immigration enforcement programs, the Obama administration’s “priorities” amount to little more than empty rhetoric.

Family fights deportation of son with Down Syndrome

“Discretion” is a word that arises again and again in immigration discourse. A common criticism of the dysfunctional immigration system is that overcrowding and under-staffing discourages officials from exercising their discretion in favor of undocumented immigrants who might have legitimate grounds to remain in the country.

Some of these individuals include legal residents who are deported on a technicality and immigrant soldiers who deported after serving in the U.S. military.

One such individual, whose story is detailed by’s Prerna Lal, is Hee Chun Kang, a Korean immigrant with Down Syndrome who awaits deportation on a technicality:

Hee Chun and Hyo Chun were 10 and 7 years of age, respectively, when their parents brought them to the United States in 1993. They overstayed their tourist visas, but due to a family petition filed on their behalf, the parents became legal residents last year. However, Hee Chun and Hyo Chun were both over 21 by the time a visa was available, so they aged-out and now await deportation from the United States, away from their parents.

Lal cites several reasons that Kang’s deportation is unnecessary, most of which boil down to the fact that immigration officials have the power to defer the deportation order due to Kang’s highly irregular situation.

Children deported without parents become fodder for drug cartels

ICE’s demonstrated enforcement priorities — as evidenced in the cases mentioned above — hint at the lack of humanity inherent in deportations. But a Texas Observer investigation by Melissa Del Bosqueunderscores the brutality of a system that relentlessly pursues deportation quotas at the expense of the most vulnerable — children.

Every day, scores of children attempt to cross the border in the U.S., either with family members, or in an effort to reunite with family on the other. These children often end up alone and in the custody of the Border Patrol, which sends them back to Mexico, where they are housed in shelters until they are claimed. According to Del Bosque’s sources, 90,000 children have been deported to Mexico without parents and 13,500 have not been claimed. Of the unclaimed, many fall into the hands of drug cartels and smugglers.

It’s a humanitarian crisis that, according to Del Bosque, could easily be reversed if government officials on both sides of the border abandoned their politics for the sake of protecting thousands of lost children:

Mexico and the United States have binational accords and a repatriation program to protect migrant children, yet neither country ensures they’re safely returned home. The U.S. Border Patrol and [Mexico's social service agency] could set up a database to monitor children at risk to prevent them from ending up on the streets. The U.S. Congress could also pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a family reunification process to prevent children from being dumped in Mexican shelters. The Border Patrol already has a congressional mandate to screen for vulnerable kids and refer them to U.S. agencies that can help, yet advocates say it’s not being done.

Evidently, good intentions and high-minded priorities mean little when it comes to enforcement. The Obama administration needs to pull its immigration practices into line with its professed priorities — or children, victims, and other innocents will continue to slip through the cracks for the sake of meeting quotas and breaking records.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.

photo credit: thanks to Fibonacci Blue via flickr
by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger


Huber F.
Huber F6 years ago

oow uh.

David M.
Eva Daniher8 years ago


Bob W.
Bob W8 years ago


I did read the articles. It said that immigrant veterans had been deported for criminal offenses. These must not have completed their citizenship requirements for some reason. Maybe they did not complete their enlistment? Immigrant veteran does not equal citizen.

Let me make this clear. If you enlist, serve honorably and gain citizenship then great. These are the people we want to move here. But a guy who joins serves two months and gets tossed for drugs or some other offense is still a vet. He was dishonorably discharged, but he is a vet. So, if they are deporting "veteran immigrants", I suspect these were people that did fulfill their obligation.

Elizabeth Rodriguez
Beth rodriguez8 years ago

I agree Tori but if I were you I wouldn't bother. No matter how many times you try to explain to some people that your feelings and actions are not based on what Lionel says it falls on deaf ears and and un-opened minds. Not once have I seen any of these people complaining that I'm racist come up with an idea of how to help the people that are unnecessarily deported or treated inhumanly. I like some others believe that this country should help others in need but feel that it has been done in such a way over the last years that it has put us in the position of needing help. There IS A REASON why the US and other countries have immigration policies much like other laws. Unfortunately sometimes there are people who take advantage of their power and we should petition and do what ever needed to get these people removed from their position. However, that doesn't mean the whole institution should suffer for their behavior. Thats just as racist as some of the people I've met in other countries hating Americans because they think we all act and agree with the way our government has.
Listen to band Crass song If there was no government

perlette a.
perlita a8 years ago

this is a very sad issue..

Lionel Mann
Lionel Mann8 years ago

Racism, xenophobia, bigotry and intolerance flourish in nations that have inferior education systems resulting in an abysmally ignorant general populace. See where this has led in the U.S.A. Your entire social ethos has been badly damaged through allocation of funds to overseas savage military aggression rather than to the desperate needs of your domestic infrastructure.

Tori W.
Past Member 8 years ago

part 2
does anyone really believe that illegal immigrants are not a drain on our social services?? just check with your local hospitals...if you can find any still open after they lost so much money providing health care to illegal immigrants that never paid their's one of the reason so many hospitals went broke and had to close...think about what it costs to fund your caring attitudes towards everyone and perhaps you might be able to display some concern to many living in poverty in this country'm sure that everyone really cares about everyone else and wants the world to live in splendor, peace and's a very nice the real world, this all costs money..are you willing to pay the price for your generosity to everyone??? i think that to help anyone in the future, people or animals..we are going to have to cut back now and that we will be around in the future to be able to help....

Tori W.
Past Member 8 years ago

i'm not cold hearted and i think that if one serves in our military, they should be able to become a legal citizen. this is much different than parents and children being separated because parents become legal and children don't or vice versa. if they want to stay together as family, then let them all return to the country of their origin, or one group goes back. now before you write to me about how cold hearted and uncaring i am, you decide. what should we in america, the legal residents, give up to pay for illegal immigrants that get free care, assistance and ever so much in our county at our expense. shall we give up half of our police and fire protections? how about getting rid of social security and social security disability (which hasn't even had a cost of living increase in 3 years), so let's just get rid of it and all the poor elderly and crippled can end up dying on the streets in front of you, or let's just get rid of head start, the program helping children to get ready for the school system....and let's just get rid of all unemployment and work related injury's that? want to keep all the illegals here and pay for them...then you decide what programs get canceled to pay for's nice and wonderful to be so magnanimous when your not picking up the tab, but when you have to pay the bill, the perspective becomes much different...

Cath Bono
Kate A8 years ago

I'm sorry but illegal is illegal

Elizabeth Rodriguez
Beth rodriguez8 years ago

I just have to respond again and here is why:
I really feel like the moment you disagree with the way someone else feels you are "inhumane,judgmental,racist" etc. I mean the moment I put a view out there that was the end of any discusion. Common if we are to work together to change things you have to be open minded and give a counter discussion. I have an opinion on a fact.If you break the law there are consequences. However, I also see that the other side to this is people are deported or detained who are here legally. So instead of trying to prove that one opinion is better than another or just complaining on a message board what can we all do together to show the powers that be that we disagree with this. Lets look at the solution instead of arguing and judging everyone which is the same way we say that others shouldn't be acting.