How Can We Stop ICE from Shattering Families? [Reader Forum]

Readers discuss ARC's new report, which lays out how children are being taken from undocumented parents.

By Channing Kennedy Nov 07, 2011

Last week our publisher, the Applied Research Center, released a groundbreaking new report that lays bare a nationwide crisis for families. Titled "Shattered Families," the new report shows in detail how undocumented mothers and fathers are being made to watch on as their children are taken from them as part of the detention and deportation process, with little chance of getting their rights as parents back. For parents, a routine traffic stop or a surprise early-morning raid can mark the last time they see their children; mothers with abusive partners are especially vulnerable. And while the parents are being detained and deported, the kids are dropped into the foster care system.

Along with its two accompanying Colorlines articles by senior researcher Seth Freed Wessler and a Movement Notes column by ARC executive director Rinku Sen, the report has been making waves; New York Rep. José Serrano has issued a statement calling on DHS Secretary Napolitano to halt and review any deportation case causing a child to be placed in foster care.

And here on, we saw some thoughtful, moving conversations. Here’s what you had to say.

Tovah Isaiah Gidseg:

As a foster parent I can say with confidence: NO, NO, NO… foster care is NEVER better than having children separated from parents who were neither neglectful nor abusive. Foster care, even with an awesome foster family, is traumatizing… even for kids who truly need to be removed from their family of origin. Being an undocumented immigrant is neither inherently abusive nor neglectful. Reunite these families now!

Eme Nin:

As an adult who as a child went through this torture of being separated from a parent, I can tell you there is nothing more frightening for a child to endure and for a family to experience.

Melanie Lopez:

Gee, I thought he said he’s mostly deporting "criminals."

Erica Lorraine Williams:

The foster care system is already overflowing with (mostly brown) children. Why are they adding more to the system unnecessarily? Also, why do they automatically assume that it would be better to live in the foster care system or unknown families in the US than to live with their own families in Mexico? So wrong…

Shannon Moore:

This needs to stop. There is no reason to separate families. If a child is born an American citizen – give them the choice to stay in the US if they are older, if there are relatives or friends. But to tear young children away from their parents and to put them in foster care does not help anyone.

Marianne Milton:

Two agencies with little oversight and the power of (almost) life and death over some of the most vulnerable citizens of our country working hand in hand: Terribly frightening, and this is from a mom who has adopted from the foster care system, so I’m not some lunatic fringe person on this issue.

Eva Polanco Ramirez:

Yet, another reason why immigration reform is so important!


Oh, Colorlines. I didn’t need to start my day with this photo 🙁 That said: is there anything we can do to help? #OccupyDHS?

[…] This isn’t anything new, really. The policy of destroying the families of groups/subgroups has always been a way for the government to maintain control, so I’m not quite sure why folks are surprised this is happening. I’m saddened by it but certainly not surprised. This has been happening to black people in this country fighting the foster system since time began. Another good (bad?) example of this is Australia’s ‘Stolen Generations.’

Jordan Roberts:

The Obama administration’s human rights record is disgusting. Treating our special forces like the world is a Call of Duty multiplayer match and executing American citizens without trials are awful examples, but they pale in comparison to the human cost of his immigration policy.

josegama responds to another commenter’s line that ICE is only deporting ‘dangerous’ immigrants:

This is not true, my white knight. Around 26% of those have had run-ins with the law on a felony-level. 14% have committed mistermeaners. 31% have been caught for crimes punishable by less than one year and this includes a broken tail-light or jaywalking (negligible offenses.) The remainder have not committed crimes (26%). It’s come to a point that if you are a witness of a crime, you are liable to be deported.

We don’t need your sympathy here. We merely want justice. Justice is above your feelings; it is what creates a society civil and right.

Here are some facts. Facts. Not rhetoric. Facts.

The first: The U.S. Economic Advisors on Immigration’s Economic Impact reports that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than natives. Statistically, an immigrant is less likely to commit a crime than you are. I truly believe that considering your lack of sympathy, citizen.

The second: ICE Reports. Yes, ICE reports. That’s where I got those percentages.

Both of these are U.S. government reporting and findings.

Rebecca bring up an issue that we explored in depth in our 2009 ‘Torn Apart’ investigation:

This does not even go on to talk about the families where one parent and the children are citizens; where the undocumented parent is the working parent and pays the bills and taxes also preventing the family from being on government support. The citizen spouses and children have rights and they are being violated just as equally as the rights of the undocumented.


The logic for removing children from illegal alien parents who have demonstrated that they are prone to make bad or irresponsible decisions is understandable. But, despite that, the children should remain with their parents when deported. It is better to keep the family intact. Also, the children may be citizens of another country and it is immoral to confiscate the children of that country.


You have to wonder who or what is behind this draconian push for "inmates", for lack of a better word, as in the case of the deported and detained parents that get jailed in private prisons run by corporations like CCA and The GEO Group. This may be old news for many of you, but if it’s not, check this out.

This is not serving anybody but the money-making corporations that have their lobbyists pushing for harsher and harsher laws that get pushed through in the name of national security and being patriotic.


The coverage of this disturbing happening is great, but let’s not let it stand against a belief that the other children in foster care ought to be there. Yes, some children do, but foster care is a racialized institution, in which poor children of color are disproportionally placed into state foster care. Let’s look at these 5,100 children as indicative of what is happening to 510,000 children who are currently in care.

And finally, parkwood1920 quotes the reaction from New York Rep. José Serrano:

"When I introduced the Child Citizen Protection Act for the first time several years ago, I warned that a rigid deportation policy would end up separating children from their parents for no good reason. Today we have learned that that dire prediction is turning out to be true."

Rep. Serrano is correct. There is no justification for what ICE or Homeland Security is doing. This government is committing massive human rights violations while we watch. It is inhumane to steal parents away from their children. Enough said.

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