The revelation that immigration officials deported an estimated 46,000 parents of U.S. children during the first part of 2011 is “completely unacceptable,” several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Friday.
“To force hardship on American families is contrary with the ideals and standards of our country,” said Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-Texas, the chairman of the caucus in response to a report issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Those who commit violent crimes should be a priority for deportation, but it’s misguided to deport parents who are simply living in the United States as a part of a mixed-status family,” he said.
The report detailed the number of deportations that occurred between Jan. 1 and June 30 of last year. Since the federal fiscal year is different from the calendar year, that period is considered the second and third quarter for ICE officials.
The top eight cities that contained the most removals of undocumented parents with at least one U.S. citizen child, according to the report, include: Atlanta, Chicago, El Paso, Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio and San Diego. The seven-page report is titled, “Deportation of Parents of U.S.-born Citizens.”
The Hispanic caucus members called on ICE and the Obama administration to set priorities for deportation that mitigates breaking up families.
“I urge ICE to use its policy of prosecutorial discretion to prioritize deportation proceedings and then deport individuals that pose a danger to our communities, which is the wisest use of limited resources and in our economic best interest,” Gonzalez said.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-IL, hinted at the toll this is having on families across the states, while urging for case-sensitive deportation policies.
“The president’s policy of sparing long-time residents from deportation so that we can concentrate our resources on removing serious criminals needs to be fully implemented and followed,” said Gutierrez. “We are putting our future at risk every day that we delay serious reform and continue shoveling more good people into deportation and their children into foster care.”
Prosecutorial discretion guidance to U.S. immigration officers was issued in 2011. ICE announced a nationwide review of cases pending before immigration courts in determining which case are considered low-priority for removal.
That move came as President Barack Obama sustained growing criticism by Hispanics at news that his administration has deported more people than any previous administration. While polls show that Obama enjoys a wide lead among Hispanic voters in head-to-head contests against any of the current Republican field, Republicans are trying to appeal to Hispanics by reminding them that Obama failed to deliver a campaign promise to reform immigration laws the first year he was in office.
Instead, Hispanics saw an aggressive deportation policy that many critics said broke up families far too often. Under the latest discretionary guidelines, a parent would need to have long-time presence in the United States and have established compelling ties and made compelling contributions to the United States in order to qualify for relief from deportation proceedings.
According to data collected by the Department of Homeland Security in 2009, an estimate of more than 100,000 parents of U.S.-born children were deported from the country between 1998 and 2007.
“I believe it is critical that the new guidelines are interpreted as generously as possible by agency officials to prevent even more families from being torn apart,” said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif. “This report is the latest example of the terrible human toll our broken immigration system is taking on families. Tearing families apart like this is inhumane and completely unacceptable.”
[Photo By Lel4nd]