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The Forgotten Children of our Immigration System; By Danielle Beach-Oswald

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Fosterchild


In a year in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was able to deport a record number of 400,000 individuals there is one group that has been forgotten - the children of illegal immigrants that are currently detained.  A new study by the Applied Research Center noted that there are currently 5,000 children in foster care because their parents are in ICE detention centers.  The study noted that if the situation doesn't improve over 15,000 children of illegal immigrants will also end up in foster care. Additionally, 46,000 of those deported in the first half of 2011 had US citizen children.  Although ICE has a policy of trying not to detain individuals who are the primary caretakers of children, one can't help but question whether ICE is truly implementing this policy.   The situation is especially bad in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.   Often times, the distances between the child and the detention center further complicates the problem.  One troubling aspect of the study noted that children are likely to enter foster care after their mothers call the police for help from domestic abuse.  While these mothers should be able to receive U Visas, both they and their children suffer because of ICE's overly aggressive policies. 


When a child whose parents are detained is in foster care, the struggle for them to have legal custody is difficult.  These parents often times cannot attend the hearings regarding the custody of their children.  Their ability to communicate with their children while in foster care is also a difficulty.


A study released by the University of Wisconsin noted that children who are raised in the foster care system face difficulties in school and have lower probability of eventually attending college.  As many as 25% of adults who were raised in the foster care system need government assistance.  Additionally, males who were raised in the foster care system have a 25% to 35% chance of being arrested.  Children raised in the foster care system are more prone to problems like teen pregnancies.  Given the problems with our nation's foster care system, the children of illegal immigrants should not be punished because of the overly hostile nature of ICE's deportation policies.   


Rather than allowing them to become productive members of society, ICE's immigration policy is shattering families.  The children of illegal immigrants - both those that are here legally and illegally - are entitled to things such as education.   It's time for ICE to truly implement the Morton Memo on Prosecutorial Discretion and realize that those that have children should not be targeted.  Otherwise, these children remain at risk and will face increased hurdles of becoming productive members of society. 

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