ICE Neglects Interests of Citizen Children

On Monday, March 23, 2009, The Urban Institute hosted an enlightening panel titled “In Whose Best Interests? U.S. Immigration Enforcement and Citizen Children,” discussing the long ignored vital issue of U.S. born children and the neglect in the nation's immigration enforcement policy.

"There are approximately 3.1 million citizen children of undocumented parents living in the United States," according to James Kremer a partner in the Minneapolis office of Dorsey and Whitney LLP and coauthor of “Serving a Lifeline: The Neglect of Citizen Children in America’s Immigration Enforcement Policy."

The panel discussed how American-born children are victims of out-of-date immigration laws and increased interior immigration enforcement action by ICE toward undocumented immigrants. The immigrants who are caught up in these high profile worksite raids and home raids tend to be parents of U.S. born children. The children are then either forced to move to a foreign country or be separated from their families. Citizen children are live in an environment of fear that often affects their daily lives, such as school attendance.

Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, stated “There are three things that the new administration could do to focus on fixing this deeply troubling issue.” The first was to realize that deportation is not an effective way to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants in this country. There are an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in this country and only 5% are being targeted by this type of enforcement. ICE ought to be targeting criminals such as the drug cartels in Mexico, she stated.

Secondly, Meissner stated that ICE needs to have a clear set of operational guidelines. Lastly, Doris mentioned transparency. Transparency helps to prevent the corruption that inevitably occurs when a select few have access to important information, allowing them to use it for personal gain. ICE needs to gather data giving us the exact list of people that have been deported and the effectiveness of the program. Detention locations are also important to know. Also, they need to make information available as to where these undocumented immigrants are taken after being incarcerated.

“These kinds of improvements would make a difference,” she said. John Willshire-Carrera, senior attorney for Greater Boston Legal Services, stated, “The United States is quick to help other countries with human rights issues, but why are we not upholding our human rights in our country.” Clearly, immigration policies that affect American children must be revisited.

To read the full report, click here.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund