Separation in Mexican Families
By: Denise Ferrufino*
The number of deportations executed throughout the Obama administration has exceeded the ones from previous years, and it is creating a devastating effect on the families of Mexican immigrants. In 2010, the Department of Homeland Security reported that there was an estimated population of 6, 640,000 unauthorized Mexican immigrants. Out of this estimated population 282,003 Mexicans were removed. Some of these individuals are parents who have US citizen children, and the separation imposed by current deportation policies has laid fear among them.
A recent study conducted by sociologist Joanna Dreby, from the University at Albany, State University of New York, showed that even though there are some children that do not face direct deportation experiences of family members, many of them are haunted by the fact there is possibility of one of their parents being deported. The children who are confronted with this reality are unfortunately the ones who have to suffer the tragic transformation to a single-parent household.
There is a difference between voluntary separation and forced separation based on the illegal status of a family member. Families that have migrated voluntarily have left family behind and send remittances to support their families. But the study revealed that forced separation of family members who have US citizen children lead to negative effects that impact emotional and financial stability.
Cases vary and every story is different, but the harm done to these families is incomparable. Children are being snatched away from their parent’s arms because of their illegal status, and parents are loosing custody over their children, which are then turned in to Children Welfare agencies. Months and months behind bars make it impossible to have any say on specific arrangements they would like for their children. The majority of detained parents are unaware of their own rights, and the rights they possess as the parent of U.S. citizen children. Welfare agencies argue that the parent’s absence leaves them with no other choice then to terminate their parental rights. In some instances children have been put up for adoption without the permission and the refusal of parents.
The broken immigration system is creating more single-mother households, and these families are barely making ends meet. The study conducted by Debry claims that deportation is a gendered process. Even though the Department of Homeland Security does not release the gender on the number of deportees, it is evident that the majority of them are males. The abrupt changes in these mixed-status households have to endure the trauma of a parent or spouse being arrested and deported. Families might try to reunite again, but for many it is a long road ahead. Some families reunite by bringing the entire family back to Mexico, but this transition can also effect the life of US citizen children. The lack of a quality education in hopes to live the American Dream is tarnished, and the benefits acquired through their citizenship cannot be attained if they live in Mexico.
Although the Department of Homeland Security claims that their goal is to remove foreign-born criminals, they have continued issuing deportation orders to parents that have US citizen children. These deportation policies are taking a toll on the livelihood of US citizen children. Their citizenship is disregarded because of the illegal status of their parents, and when one of their family members is deported; their quality of life is at risk of being degraded.
*Denise Ferrufino is a File Clerk at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates, P.C.