On Thursday, Univision anchor Maria Elena Salinas cited a Colorlines.com investigation that found there is an estimated 5,100 children in foster care who face barriers to family reunification because their mother or father is in detention or has been deported.
Salinas mentioned Colorlines’ investigation before asking President Obama whether he would consider deferred action for non-citizen parents of U.S. born children.
Transcript of Salinas’ question is below:
“Mr. President, you have been the President who has made the largest number of deportations in history — more than 1.5 million so far. You’ve separated many families. There are more than 5,000 children who are American citizens in foster care and in the adoption process. Would you just — since you’ve granted deferred action, would you like to do something — consider doing something similar to other groups of non-criminal illegal immigrants such as the parents of U.S.-born children?”
The president responded with his well worn talking points on deportation. He said that the Department of Homeland Security is now targeting deportation programs on “people with criminal records” and people “apprehended close to the border.” He said this later group, border crossers, are “not people who have longstanding roots in our community.”
“His assertion that by focusing on these demographics he’ll avoid separating families is plainly not reflected in reality,” said Seth Freed Wessler, Colorlines’ investigative reporter.
“In fact, many children are stuck in foster care because their parents have been detained as a result of a conviction of some sort. Felipe Montes, for example, was deported in late 2010 because he was convicted of driving violations. Other parents I met inside detention centers around the county were facing deportation as a result of charges for things like petty theft or minor drug charges. The president’s focus on “criminals” will not solve the problem of family separation or keep children of deportees out of foster care,” Wessler said.
Wessler says the President’s assertion that people picked up at the border don’t have ties to the U.S. is similarly wrong.
The NY Times reported late last year, that ‘56 percent of apprehensions at the Mexican border in 2010 involved people who had been caught previously, up from 44 percent in 2005.’”
In other words, the majority of migrants picked up at the border are mostly people who’ve been here before, and many are coming back to reunite with their families.
“This should come as no surprise,” Wessler said, citing a recent study from Pew that found that “nearly half of undocumented immigrants in the US have minor children.”
“The President said these are ‘heartbreaking stories’ that emerge ‘occasionally.’ But the truth is that when, as federal data shows, over 22 percent of deportees are the parents of U.S. citizens, these stories will be far from occasional outliers.” Wessler said.
Transcript of Salinas’ question for President Obama and his answer is below:
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Mr. President, you have been the President who has made the largest number of deportations in history — more than 1.5 million so far. You’ve separated many families. There are more than 5,000 children who are American citizens in foster care and in the adoption process. Would you just — since you’ve granted deferred action, would you like to do something — consider doing something similar to other groups of non-criminal illegal immigrants such as the parents of U.S.-born children?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me describe sort of how we’ve tried to approach this given that we haven’t gotten comprehensive immigration reform done yet. My instructions to the Department of Homeland Security has been that we have to focus our attention, our enforcement, on people who genuinely pose a threat to our communities, not to hardworking families who are minding their own business and oftentimes have members of their family who are U.S. citizens — because that’s a — that’s a priority in terms of limited enforcement resources. We don’t have the capacity to enforce across the board when you’re talking about millions of people. And we’ve done that.
So more than half of our enforcement now is directed at people with criminal records. Of the remaining half, about two-thirds are actually people who are typically apprehended close to the border, so these are not people who have longstanding roots in our community. And what we’ve tried to do then is focus our attention on real threats, and make sure that families of the sort that you describe are not the targets of DHS resources.
Now, what I’ve always said is, as the head of the executive branch, there’s a limit to what I can do. Part of the reason that deportations went up was Congress put a whole lot of money into it, and when you have a lot of resources and a lot more agents involved, then there are going to be higher numbers. What we’ve said is, let’s make sure that you’re not misdirecting those resources. But we’re still going to, ultimately, have to change the laws in order to avoid some of the heartbreaking stories that you see coming up occasionally. And that’s why this continues to be a top priority of mine.
The steps we’ve taken with the DREAM Act kids, one of the great things about it is to see that the country as a whole has actually agreed with us on this. There are voices in the Republican Party have been very critical, but the good news is, is that the majority of Americans have said, you know what, if somebody lives here, has gone to school here, pledges allegiance to our flag, this is the only country they’ve known, they shouldn’t be sent away. We should embrace them and say we want you to help build this country.
So we’ve got public opinion on our side on that issue. And we will continue to make sure that how we enforce is done as fairly and justly as possible. But until we have a law in place that provides a pathway for legalization and/or citizenship for the folks in question, we’re going to be — continue to be bound by the law. And that’s a challenge.