In just five years between 2005 and 2010, about 300,000 U.S. citizen children moved from their homes in the United States to follow their parents who were deported to Mexico or returned on their own volition. The children form what the New York Times described in a story today as “an entire generation of children who blur the line between Mexican and American.”
“It’s really a new phenomenon,” said Víctor Zúñiga, a sociologist at the University of Monterrey, in an interview with the Times. “It’s the first time in the relationship between Mexico and the United States that we have a generation of young people sharing both societies during the early years of their lives.”
In September, Colorlines.com’s publisher the Applied Research Center obtained new federal data showing that in the first six months of 2011, the U.S. government deported more than 46,486 parents of citizen children. (Six months later, ICE released the data again in a report to Congress.) A Colorlines.com investigation found that many of their children were stuck in American foster care systems and sometimes permanently separated from their parents.
Those children who are not lost to the foster care system either stay in the United States with family or friends after their mothers and fathers are deported or travel to follow their parents. The data reported today in the Times begins to provide perspective on the numbers of children following the later path. One of these parents is Tomás Isidoro, a 39-year-old carpenter whose story is recorded in the Times:
Mr. Isidoro, wearing a Dallas Cowboys hat in his parents’ kitchen, said he was still angry that his 25 years of work in the United States meant nothing; that being caught with a broken taillight on his vehicle and without immigration papers meant more than having two American sons — Jeffrey, 10, and his brother, Tommy Jefferson, 2, who was named after the family’s favorite president. … …[For] Jeffrey, the impact of his father’s removal in June last year was immediate. His grades dipped. His mother, Leivi Rodríguez, 32, worried that he had become more distant, from both his friends and his studies. Almost every day, Jeffrey told her he wanted to see his father. So six months after her husband’s deportation, she sent Jeffrey to live with his father in Mexico, and she followed with Tommy a few months later. …
School here presented new challenges, as well. Jeffrey went hungry at first because neither he nor his father realized that without a cafeteria, students relied on their parents to bring them food at recess.
In class, Jeffrey’s level of confusion rises and falls. His teacher said she struggled to keep him from daydreaming. “His body is here, but his mind — who knows where it is,” she said.
On Friday, President Obama announced that undocumented young people who came to the United States before they were 16 and are now under 30 will be spared from deportation and can apply for work permits. The reprieve is a major victory for youth who would have been eligable for the federal DREAM Act had it been passed by Congress and who feared deportation to a place far from their homes that some have little memory of.
But the mass deportation of parents means that many families are left with no choice but to relocate children from their homes in U.S. cities and towns to the countries of their parents birth, places where some of these children have never set foot.