As America debates the merits of immigration reform, the harsh reality of deportation still exists for foreign nationals in the United States. These deportations, in turn, affect millions of American families because one or more members do not have legal resident status. U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) said about 90,000 undocumented parents were separated from their American citizen children in 2012 alone due to deportation. A study by the University of Arizona states the number could be well over 100,000. U.S. families who have an undocumented parent deported not only suffer emotionally, but financially as well. The loss of a working parent often causes families to fall behind on bills and mortgages.
“These deportations are tearing apart AMERICAN families,” says immigration activist Ralph Isenberg of the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE), an organization that provides free services to foreign nationals trying to navigate the complicated immigration system. “Many of these parents have been here for decades, have American citizen children and spouces, and have never gotten into trouble with the law.” Isenberg says he has seen a dramatic increase in the last year of parents being detained and deported by the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) branch of Homeland Security.
Isenberg attributes the rise in parent arrests and deportations to President Obama’s order last year, which made it possible for millions of young undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation. Since then, he believes ICE agents have focused their efforts on their undocumented parents instead.
The breakup of these American families does not have to happen. “Government officials have absolute discretion to provide relief to undocumented foreign nationals,” Isenberg said. That includes not deporting an undocumented immigrant if there are American citizen family members who will be dramatically affected. “Due process in immigration cases is different than our legal system, in which everyone is judged by the same standard. With immigration cases, you cannot lump everyone together. It takes a case by case review, so a family’s specific circumstances are taken into account.”
Unfortunately, many families do not get that consideration. Isenberg’s group ICIE has seen many cases in which families were needlessly torn apart by deportation. Among recent situations ICIE has dealt with:
- A Mexican national named Sandra who was nearly deported for getting a traffic ticket. She is a grandmother married to an American citizen, but is undocumented. She returned to Mexico in 2005 after her mother passed away, and after spending three years there in an unsuccessful attempt to get an American visa, she reentered the country undocumented to be with her family. Just days before her scheduled deportation, ICE granted Sandra a six month stay after she filed an I-130 form, which could allow her legal residency based on her American family connections.
- A grandmother from Mexico who was deported, despite the fact that her daughter, an American citizen, was fighting terminal cancer. The daughter, named Maricela, has a young daughter of her own, and asked ICE officials not to deport her mother so she could care for her after her passing. The request was denied and the mother was deported. Maricela died within a year.
- Mario Martinez, a father of three living in Lafayette, Louisiana, was arrested and charged with operating a vehicle without a lawful presence in the country. Martinez, however, is in the country legally, and still spent five days in jail, including this past Christmas. He was finally released with ICIE’s help. The Martinez family has since moved to Dallas, to avoid the racial profiling in Lafayette.
- Yadira Verdusco, whose case we had previously reported on. Verdusco worked at Medical City Dallas and taught in the Dallas County Community College District, but she was recently detained by ICE and charged with a federal crime of illegal reentry into the country. She remains jailed in Mansfield, without the opportunity to be released on bond, despite her claim that she is in the country legally. A petition has been started asking a district judge to give Verdusco a bond hearing.
- A father who once served time in jail and later deported returned to be with his family. He lived in America for twenty years without even a parking ticket before his recent arrest and federal indictment on illegal reentry charges. His children, all American citizens, will now be without a father.
“This sort of tragedy, the needless separation of families, has happened all throughout history,” Isenberg said. “You would think after he President’s recent announcements that our government would try to keep these good American families together. But, ICE is actually adding beds to their holding facility and plans to detain more people. They only care about keeping their deportation numbers up.”
Victor Medina writes for Yahoo News and his political blog WhenLiberalsAttack.com. His other writing credits include The Dallas Morning News and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum. You can follow him on his blog, VictorMedina.com or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to receive a weekly email update from WhenLiberalsAttack.com. To be notified of future stories by Victor Medina, click the SIGN UP or SUBSCRIBE button at the top of this page.