|File photo from Al Día|
In a November release, TRAC stated that 2013 was a record year for immigration prosecutions, with 97,384 cases filed against new defendants. It represents a 5.9 percent increase from the 2012 deportation rate, and a 22.6 percent increase in the past five years.
The numbers stand in stark contrast to every public statement the administration (under Janet Napolitano's direction of DHS) has made about narrowing and refining the scope of deportations. (It is hard to predict what Jeh Johnson will do in her stead since he is so recently confirmed to the post.)
According to the National Day Laborer Organizing Network — which participated in a number of actions to block deportation buses this past year — the enforcement of deportations orders continues to tear families apart.
It is not the only organization to say so. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has long maintained that the impact of existing immigration policies has been borne by families, and organizations formed by the undocumented themselves — like Dream Activist — regularly make public the stories of families torn asunder by detention and imminent deportation. Many of the family impacted are "mixed" families, with U.S. citizen children and undocumented parents and/or siblings.
The result is utterly devastating to both the individuals involved and to cultural communities built around the importance — primacy, really — of family. We are seeding a generation of children ripped forcibly from their parents' sides by the state. A generation left behind, and lost to themselves and their ancestral culture.
|File photo from Al Día|
A 2011 study of the Applied Research Center revealed that, at that time, more than 5,100 children of detained or deported immigrants were in foster care in 22 states. Some, like Encarnation Bail Romero's son or Amelia Reyes Jimenez's four children were adopted away from biological parents deemed to have abandoned them because they were deported or in detention. Others, like Cesia and Ronald Soza Jr., are in foster care after coming home from school to find their single parent detained, and subsequently deported, even though his children say he tried to comply with the requirements imposed by the state that should have permitted him to stay at least until they were of age.
The long-term effects of such forcible separations are not sufficiently studied, but many of the experts speaking about the mental health stressors of immigration at a recent Dart Center Workshop factor the fear of deportation and the effects of separation into their assessments of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorders that can, and do, affect the undocumented in the U.S.
There is some similarity to the forcible separation of Native American children from their families and cultures in our nation's history — though, of course, that was far more widespread and even more virulent and systemic than this. It is a cultural trauma that still impacts many Native American bands, nations and individuals, and it is not too tremendous a stretch to imagine a similarly lasting impact on the generations of young Latinos stranded here without their families and cultural anchors. (Moreover, it is impossible to ignore that the majority of those deported, by ICE's own statistics for 2013, are from four countries — Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — and are likely to include many with indigenous ancestry.)
Family separation is a huge concern for all immigrants. In fact, Asian immigration advocates have taken a strong stand against the switch from a family-reunification-centered visa allocation in the Senate bill in part because of the violence it will do to cultural norms centered on family.
Still, I have long maintained that the debate about immigration policy took a turn a while ago from focusing primarily on lack of documentation to broader xenophobic "invasion" fears tied to the rapid demographic growth of Latinos — documented and citizen included — across the nation.
Public excoriation of Latinos performing at sporting events; removal of Mexican American history and literature from Arizona schools; housing discrimination against Latinos; efforts to curtail Latino business and growth within municipalities under the aegis of immigration relief; efforts to pit Latinos in a zero sum game against African-Americans (which has only recently started to be counter-disputed with statistics from the 2010 Census) and many other increasingly visible manifestations of anti-Latino proposed public policy and raw sentiment have done nothing to dissuade me from my thinking.
What better, then, to slow a population growth that is viewed as "undesirable" than to destroy Latino families through unprecedented deportation rates justified by the state's desire to restore order and safeguard sovereignty?
I know many will bristle at this interpretation, and still I cannot shake it as I consider the deportation rate and the way it has utterly failed —time and again — at distinguishing between criminality and family need, between those who want to imperil security and those whose whole journey has been toward finding security for themselves and their loved ones.