One problem apparently left to fester by the federal government is the creation of thousands of immigration orphans who may never see their deported parents again. However, if Congress passes immigration reform, thousands of these children may be happily reunited with their parents, both in California and other states. California has by far the largest population of children left behind by deported parents.
One aspect of the situation is that a child born in this country to undocumented parents is nonetheless automatically given United States citizenship. The problem arises by the government’s practice of deporting the non-citizen parents of these children. There is much confusion because deportation is controlled by federal agencies and child welfare is a state function.
The ‘Gang of Eight’ legislation pending in the Congress would interject considerations of the welfare of the children into the immigration decision of whether to deport, and would in essence create a deportation defense. It would also provide a way for moving family members to this country. Deported parents could come back and rejoin their children.
The bill also has a provision allowing judges to recognize a deportation defense for immigrants who have a citizen family member. Some 4.5 million children are citizens who live in families with at least one parent being undocumented. The issue of family reunification is an important aspect of the proposed immigration reforms, and has become a hot issue for debate over the bill.
Opponents of the bill blame parents for making the choice of leaving their children behind. However, the government does not now assist detainees with their children, or even allow a call to them. They’ve been deported in many instances without a chance to take their children along. This places the government in the objectionable position of fostering the wholesale breakup of families, the creation of ‘immigration orphans’ and the deportation of all family members of a child who is a citizen.
The new bill has numerous reform measures that will protect the parental rights of the parents and strive to preserve the family unit. At this time, California doesn’t keep track of immigration orphans. It’s feared that the situation will deteriorate into a greater problem without immigration reform.
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, “Immigration reform could unite children, parents,” May 3, 2013