From January to June 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed 46,486 undocumented parents with at least one child who is an American citizen. This extraordinary acceleration is part of the U.S. government’s effort to meet an annual quota of about 400,000 deportations.
At least 5100 children currently live in foster care and are prevented from uniting with detained or deported parents. If nothing changes, 15,000 more children may face a similar fate in the next 5 years. (See “Shattered FAmilies: The Periolous Instersection of Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System.” Applied Research Center. http://arc.org/shatteredfamilies.)
In Middlesex County there is a large group of Indonesian Christians who fled extremely violent religious persecution in the demise of the Suharto regime in the 1990s. They came with tourist visas but were not alerted that they needed to apply for asylum. Over the years, they established households, worked hard, and established churches. After 9/11, John Ashcroft enacted a registration program, NSEERS, designed to identify terrorists from mostly Muslim nations. In 2003 and 2009, many Indonesian Christians voluntarily came forward and identified themselves to ICE, as part of an agreement between a local Reformed Church and ICE that they would not suffer ill consequences. In 2011, ICE ordered them to leave. Eight have already been deported. The church now provides physical sanctuary to 5 Indonesians who have orders of deportation. This summer, 12 U.S. citizen children are scheduled to lose one or both parents to deportation.
A bill (HR-3590) has been introduced in the U.S. Congress to help this community. Assemblyman Peter Barnes of Middlesex County introduced a state resolution urgin the federal government to pass HR-3590, the Indonesian Refugee Family Protection Act.
People who want to help may contact their own state and federal legislators to urge them to also take action.
For more information go to www.keepfamliestogether.org.