Throughout the Immigration Reform debate we have heard arguments about how current circumstances are harming workers, small business owners and even researchers – but how it has affected children. Currently children are in a compromising position due to the strained immigration system. This entry will examine just that topic – the role of children in immigration reform.
Children are being affected by certain enforcement decisions to either detain or even deport parents. The Applied Research Center cited in a recent report that approximately 5,100 children are under the supervision of foster can due to parental detention or deportation. It can be argued that this is caused by a legal systems in which “judges have limited discretion to consider minor children” in circumstances where parents could be removed. Furthermore, policies indicate that the detention of non-citizens with a criminal charge (regardless of the seriousness of the offences; or the possibility that they have already completed sentencing for said offence) is currently being mismanaged, ICE’s more recent policy of parental interest directive, begins to address this issue however, children could arguably be served by a more modernized approach.
In addition, restrictions on immigration judges which limit their available discretion to use the facts of a case when determining consequences actually extends to unaccompanied children. Before the immigrant court, “children are held to the same standard as adults” and this even extends to deportation proceedings. Children who happen to be unaccompanied are rarely awarded a child advocate or attorney and must face the complicated legal system without expert guidance. This created vulnerability for children are becoming increasingly problematic as numbers of unaccompanied children continues to rise. The number of unaccompanied children in the Office of Refugee Resettlement program is also on the rise due to factors such as gang violence in their birth country. It is disheartening to view that the numbers of unaccompanied children have increased in the following:
- 6,855 in 2011
- 13,625 in 2013
This staggering increase shows that the current immigration system is not adequately addressing much needed areas such as unaccompanied children.
Third and finally, children of U.S. citizens are also harmed when their parents are unable to access the most basic of services due to fear of deportation. According to the Migration Policy Institute, mixed status families can potentially be severely effected by the efforts of immigration enforcement. Approximately one-third of all children have immigrant parents (roughly 8% of all U.S. children). A parent being remove, detained, or even deported can cause serious emotional backlash for these children. In addition, the child poverty rate is higher in mixed status families causing the American children in the household to be at particular rise for unfortunate financial circumstances which are associated with having an undocumented parent who is detained of deported. Parents who are unable to provide concrete records of income and identification, they become apprehensive when applying for social services which their children are in fact entitled to such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
In conclusion, Congress holds the ability to drastically improve the lives of millions of our nation’s children simply by passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) which would address the challenges previously mentioned in this article. CIR effects millions of individuals from the biggest business owner, to the smallest unprotected child, let us all hope for passion votes on this crucial piece of legislature.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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