In 2018 alone, California has already seen two major sweeps by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), one in Los Angeles and one in Northern California. In February 2018, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf alerted communities on television that she had been informed of a planned ICE raid in the Bay Area. Donald Trump was quick to criticize Schaaf, calling her actions a disgrace.
Schaaf defended her decision to issue the warning, writing, “It was my intention that one mother, or one father, would use the information to help keep their family together.” The mayor was right. Deportations are tearing families apart, leaving children parentless, and if we really want to preserve family values and give kids the best chance at a successful life, then we need to see an end to deportations––and to ICE.
After his election, Trump commented that he planned to deport 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants once he took office. He is clearly chipping away at his goal, but according to Haley Sweetland Edwards in Time Magazine, “more than 4 million American kids under the age of 18 have at least one undocumented parent.” If Trump achieved his goal, how many young Americans would lose at least one of their parents?
From 2009 to 2013, roughly half a million parents with American-born children were deported. The majority of those deported were fathers. But what happens to these children when they lose a parent?
A 2015 report by the Urban Institute and Migration Policy Institute shows the emotional and economic toll that losing a parent can have on families. The cost of legal funds and the loss of income can cause severe economic hardship, especially if the detained parent was the primary breadwinner. One mother interviewed said that legal fees alone cost her $20,000. Other studies have shown the link between single parent households and poverty. A 2003 Brookings Institute report states “For families with children, 32 percent are poor if the family is headed by a single parent but only 7 percent are poor if the family is headed by two married parents.” Furthermore, children raised in single family homes are more likely to suffer in their emotional development, health, and school performance.
Due to the agency’s extreme measures, a child may wake up one day, go to school, and never see their parent again. In January 2018, ICE arrested two fathers by stalking them near their children’s school in New Jersey. A third father was able to evade agents by taking shelter in a church. Imagine, the emotional toll of seeing your parent arrested outside your school.
If children lose both of their parents through deportation, they often have to live with relatives they have never met before or are sent into the foster care system. An estimated 5,000 children in the foster care system have lost their parents through deportation, nationwide. In another case, an 18-year-old woman became the guardian of her 9-year-old brother. These circumstances are clearly not conducive for anyone, child or guardian, to fulfill their potential.
Prior to the Trump administration, ICE was focused on deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records but in 2017, ICE agents arrested 146 percent more non-criminals compared to the year before. This means that people who face no real threat to the United States are being stripped of their duties as fathers and husbands. ICE is destroying the nuclear family by detaining and deporting immigrants and setting up many young Americans for a more difficult path.
In 2016, ICE spent $3.2 billion to deport immigrants with each deportation costing American taxpayers close to $11,000. According to the ICE website, the agency has an annual budget of $6 billion. The abolition of ICE would be a huge savings for taxpayers but the monetary cost of deportations is nothing compared to the human cost. The entire existence and mission of ICE
will render more than 4 million American citizens parentless. If we want to see a generation of young Americans grow up with both of their parents, to not have to constantly live in fear, to not be forced to enter the foster care system, then we need to seriously reconsider our deportation policies. We have a choice to keep families together and offer young Americans the best possible chance for a successful life but this can only be achieved if we see an end to ICE.