According to a report released by the Applied Research Center, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 46,000 parents of U.S. citizen children in the first six months of 2011–1 in 4 of all deportation cases. Already an estimated 5,100 children who are currently living in foster care have detained or deported parents. Nearly 15,000 more children are expected in the next five years. The researchers found that programs such as Secure Communities, which allows federal authorities to screen fingerprints of those arrested by local police in order to detect undocumented immigrants, greatly contributed to this trend.
The number of cases has flooded the child welfare system, all at the expense of the U.S. tax payer. The U.S. spends an average of $40,000 per child for foster care. Child protective services claim they cannot place children of detained or deported parents with undocumented family members because they “could be deported at any time.”
Child protective services are legally required to reunify children with able parents, but immigrant children face enormous barriers. Parents who are detained have great difficulties in communicating with the services, and may actually give up their parental rights without realizing it. Sometimes the children are put up for adoption even before the parent’s rights are terminated.
The report urges federal, state and local governments to implement policies that protect children. For more information on this sad and serious issue, see Shattered Families, The Perilous Intersection of Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System, November 2011.