U.S.-Born Kids Of Deported Parents Struggle As Family Life Is 'Destroyed'

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U.S.-Born Kids Of Deported Parents Struggle As Family Life Is 'Destroyed'
Eliza Grinberg's picture

I stumbled upon an article with this very name by Helen O'Neill, a New York based national writer for The Associated Press. The article was published in HuffPost's “Latinovoices” section and can be found using the following link: 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/25/us-born-kids-deported-parents_n_1830496.html.

Whether one agrees or disagreed with the author's angle of view, the problem of children of illegal immigrants is a pressing and heartbreaking one. Like many other Immigration-law related issues, the problem of broken illegal immigrant families with US-born children does not have a simple solution. In fact, it is always a tragedy, when children have to be separated from their parents, especially so when they end up in foster care.  The ill effects of such stress on the young and vulnerable are hard to underestimate.  Because most people feel compassion and heartache when confronted with stories of babies torn from the hands of their crying mothers, the issue is very appealing and is, indeed, in sore need of immediate resolution.

However, it is important to remember that, in many cases, the very reason for the problem does not lie in the US Immigration Law. Instead, it is caused by the irresponsible actions of illegal immigrant parents and their indifferent attitude toward the legalization of their status in the USA. All of these parents have either arrived in the country illegally, or remained in the country illegally. Most of them had been driven by economic reasons and a desire for better life, both of which are very understandable. Many of these individuals had been ordered deported or removed from the USA years ago, yet did nothing about it. Some may have had legal avenues to remain in the country, but never pursued them. What was their hope? Was it that they plainly be forgiven and granted legal residency for having born US-citizen children?  Did they give any thought whether that would help their noncitizen children they had brought here illegally? After all, such a precedent had already been created during President Reagan’s administration. One can only wonder how well that had gone and whether that program indeed created the incentive for people to keep breaking US immigration laws in a hope that they would be eventually legalized. Indeed, had the US laws been changed again in this manner, an even larger “Pandora ’s Box” would have been opened.  An atmosphere of impunity, permissiveness and total disregard for the laws would again be encouraged.

It is important to remember, that, in most cases, it was by ignoring the US immigration laws that the parents landed themselves and their children in trouble. Under most other circumstances, people would hardly argue that a person, convicted of breaking law, should not face punishment. In many criminal cases, such punishment is often associated with separation of the convicted from his or her family and especially, children as well as society at large. Breaking the law should lead to penalty. Should it not?

For many reasons, life in the US is more attractive for those who decide to come and stay here illegally than life in their respective homelands. It is understandable why many illegal immigrants would want to raise their kids in the US and not in their countries. However, should that mean that anyone can come and stay here illegally, ignoring and breaking the rules, laws and procedures others have to obey? Or, should everyone be required to follow the law?

The only way to make people respect the law of the land is to enforce it.  All countries do it, and many deport illegal immigrants and break up families, with utter lack of humanity and total disregard for human rights.  See, for example, http://enews.fergananews.com/article.php?id=1658. I think the United States can barely be accused of not providing proper safeguards to the rights of noncitizen. Immigration courts are working hard to ensure that people are not deported from this country without having been afforded an opportunity to present their claim for a relief from deportation, if they have any.

The problem of illegal immigration is global. Everywhere there is a better economic opportunity, an influx of illegal immigrants ensues and creates this problem, regardless of the country’s efforts to avoid it.

On the other hand, it is also true that children should not be responsible for their parents’ actions. A child brought to this country by his or her parent at a young age, as a general rule, had no say in the matter and should not be kept responsible for the actions of the parents. Yet, unde the current law such child continues to suffer from the consequences of the parents’ actions for the rest of his or her life in the USA. Having been brought up in this country, they cannot get employment authorization; apply for federal loans and do many other good things Americans take for granted. When they become adults, they often discover that in addition to dealing with normal life difficulties that most young adults have to face, they have to deal with the harsh reality of illegal life, which they had not bargained for. Many of these young adults have no connection to their countries of origin and very little knowledge of their respective cultures and people. Most of them identify themselves as Americans and know no other country. Deporting these people from the United States, though legally permissible, seems to be morally wrong and tantamount to holding children responsible for the illegal actions of their parents.   

So, the hardest task is to reconcile these two fundamentally irreconcilable truths and find fair, reasonable, humane and acceptable ways of dealing with the problems of the children of illegal immigrants. There will never be any universal solution, except for one:  illegal immigrants should take responsibility for their own lives and most importantly, those of their children they brought here illegally. Such parents should make every legitimate effort early on to obtain legal status in the USA, making such task into their number one priority. In many instances, timely and promptly sought professional legal help will eliminate the danger of heartbreak and family separation in the future.

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