Splitting up families

Almost 5,000 minors are in foster homes because they were separated from their families when their parents were detained and deported through the Secure Communities program.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program has serious issues, since it is detaining people outside its target and foreign to the reason it was created: to deport dangerous undocumented criminals. This program is also to blame for the fact that many minors are now at the mercy of county public welfare systems.

Obviously, there is no clear procedure to guarantee that someone keeps track of minors who have no other relatives to care for them when their parents or guardians are detained. Often, contact is lost when the parents are transferred from the city where they used to live to detention centers far away. Also, parents are not allowed to attend family court hearings to determine their children’s future.

Many of these children will never be reunited with their families. As foster children, they face difficult lives within a complicated system, which will probably put them out on the street without much preparation once they are declared adults. Statistics show that young people leaving the foster care system are much more likely to become homeless and destitute.

This situation is intolerable and outrageous. From the start and up to date, Secure Communities has set an example of incompetence and irresponsibility in meeting its objective of arresting undocumented immigrants who pose a danger to American society.

According to an internal memo, ICE’s agents are authorized to use their discretion to consider “whether the person has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, child, or parent” when determining who to detain or deport. Unfortunately, many ICE agents do not appear to be compassionate or use common sense to make a good decision.

Estimates show that 39% of those detained through this program have U.S. citizen spouses or children. In Los Angeles, it is estimated that 1,178 children are in foster homes because their parents were deported or are in deportation proceedings.

These are the cruel, sad consequences of a poorly planned and even worse executed deportation program. This is another powerful argument to, at the very least, put the Secure Communities program on ice.