Blog Archive

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Immigration reform needed to stop heartbreaking separations

By Albor Ruiz
The New York Daily News
July 6th 2011

Few people would dispute that children, like everybody else in America, are entitled to the basic rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Yet, Wednesday, at the Peter Rodino Federal Building in Newark, dozens of children and families will gather to demonstrate and remind everyone about that fact.

The children, all of them born in the U.S. to immigrant parents, will give poignant first-hand testimony of the tragedy of being callously separated from their parents by our dysfunctional immigration laws.

They are American citizens, but today they will not speak about their pursuit of happiness. Instead, they will tell everyone about the fear, the sadness and the loneliness they suffer because of the deportation of their parents.

"My name is Jocelyn. The last time I saw my mother was on a Friday morning before heading to school. I have not seen her since that day, which was about three years ago."

Her mother was torn from her four children and her husband and deported to her native Mexico.

"I hope that she comes back to us or that we are able to see her again," said Jocelyn, a serious-looking 15-year old. "We need her and we miss her so much. I only wish to see her to tell her how much I love her."

Jocelyn's story, sad as it is, is far from unique.

The tragedy of citizen children whose parents have been taken from them by our broken immigration laws is one of enormous proportions.

Nearly one in 10 American families are of mixed immigration status, where at least one parent is a noncitizen, and at least one child a citizen, according to data compiled by the American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights.

An estimated 3.1 million U.S. citizen children have at least one parent who is undocumented, the data shows.

Many others have at least one parent who is a permanent legal resident who can be subject to deportation for minor legal infractions upon filing for a change of immigration status.

As a result, thousands of American children are separated from a parent. Between 1998 and 2007, at least 108,434 parents of U.S.-citizen children were deported.

Absurdly enough, immigration judges are not permitted to balance family unity against deportation requirements. As we have seen, in many cases this has led to one or both parents of child citizens being deported, parents who must choose between leaving the child behind in his or her own country or taking the child to a country foreign to him or her.

That's why these children will rally in Newark to demand their government pays attention to the devastating impact of deportation and enact fair and humane immigration policies that focus on keeping families together.

Certainly it's not too much to ask.

They and advocates will also visit their Congressional representatives today in their district offices. The purpose is to lobby them to co-sponsor the Child Citizen Protection Act recently reintroduced by Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.).

The act would allow immigration judges the discretion to take family situations into account during deportation proceedings.

"I have trouble believing that any American would support their government breaking up families or orphaning children," Serrano said. "We must bring our government's policies in line with our values, which do not include breaking families apart."

Yes, we must, for the sake of these children and for our own sake.