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Increased interior immigration enforcement action by ICE, in the form of high profile worksite raids and home raids, has resulted in the arrest, detention and deportation of record numbers of undocumented immigrants over the past several years. In the process, tens of thousands of children of undocumented immigrants, including citizen children, have seen their families torn apart, or experienced the effective deportation of the entire family to countries as foreign to them as they are to other American children. The harm threatened or visited upon the citizen child in these circumstances is palpable and long-lasting.
U.S. citizen children are the victims of immigration laws that are out of step with the manner in which we address child welfare issues in other areas of the law. The “best interests” of the child find little or no hearing in the process of detaining and reporting undocumented parents. The harm suffered by the citizen child who loses a parent to deportation, or the citizen child who loses his or her prospective future in the United States in the interest of maintaining family unity, is thus the natural consequence of systemic shortcomings in U.S. immigration law and policy.
The primary goal of this report is to reveal, and to prompt meaningful and reasoned debate regarding, the deficiencies in this country’s immigration laws and enforcement scheme relative to the interests of our citizen children. Our hope is that this discussion will lead to a more humane immigration policy that does not dismiss the harm to the citizen child as unavoidable, collateral damage.
In preparing this report, the authors have researched the events surrounding, and impact of, recent worksite and home raids conducted by ICE across the nation. In addition to reviewing available literature and published reports regarding immigration enforcement actions nationally, the authors gathered data and information directly from several Minnesota communities that have been the sites of recent enforcement actions, including Worthington (site of one of the December 12, 2006, Swift plant raids), Willmar and Austin, Minnesota (both sites of several home raids). The authors interviewed local government officials, religious leaders, representatives of immigrant community support organizations, school personnel,union representatives, and affected family members. In addition, the authors undertook extensive research into historic and current immigration law and policy,and the manner and extent to which the “best interests of the child” have become a hallmark of state laws in areas implicating child welfare issues.