This story is part of “Torn Apart by Deportation,” a series investigating the impacts of deportation on families of color.

Before he was president, Barack Obama promised an overhaul of the immigration system in his term’s first year. When other national fights pushed immigration reform to the back burner, it didn’t stop the Obama administration from fine-tuning its agenda on the sidelines.

Workplace raids were scrapped, but neighborhood sweeps have been stepped up. Partnerships between local law enforcement and ICE were renewed. These days, Obama refers to people without papers as “illegal.” Families continue to be ripped apart by indefinite detention. Immigrant families are finding that waiting for reform is hardly the worst part.

This summer, ColorLines went on the road to New York and Jamaica to investigate the collateral effects of deportation on immigrant communities. It turns out that harsh immigration policy, compounded by systemic inequities built into the criminal justice system, might not be thwarting terrorists or making our country a whole lot safer. But the laws are doing a great job of breaking up another entity: families of color.  

Many of those deported were actually green-card-holders who had been convicted of nonviolent transgressions—shoplifting, drug dealing, public intoxication—and had completed their jail terms decades earlier. They were doing the hard work of readjusting to life outside of jail. They were raising kids and building homes.

We spoke to dozens of people in Jamaica who considered deportation exile. Their stories offer a rebuke to those who defend the criminal justice system as race-neutral and harsh immigration policy as necessary for our national security. They put justice on trial.

The deportees we interviewed in Jamaica had been excited about the promise of justice—with Obama in charge. They wanted to know how and when he is going to help them get back to the families they were forced to leave behind.

This story is part of “Torn Apart by Deportation,” a series investigating the impacts of deportation on families of color.

Read this online at http://colorlines.com/archives/2009/10/introduction_torn_apart.html


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