The media are full of stories about President Obama's DREAM initiative for young people who were brought to America without authorization as children through no fault of their own. But there is another class of children who are going through a terrible, cruel, nightmare at the hands of our immigration system even though these children, unlike the more publicized DREAMERS, are American citizens. I refer to the young children, some of them infants, who are losing one or both of their parents to deportation.
What possible benefit can there be for American society in tearing a crying baby out of its mother's arms in order to turn the mother into one more statistic in President Obama's deportation mill, so he can show that he is also "tough on illegal aliens", in order to impress Republican opponents, some of whom insanely refuse to believe that he is not one himself. But this is exactly what is happening in a country which claims to be the world's beacon of freedom and justice.
According to an August 25 article in the Huffington Post, 45,000 parents of US children were removed in the first six months of 2012, according to ICE (US-Born Kids Of Deported Parents Struggle As Family LIfe Is Destroyed).
The Huffpost article describes their plight as follows:
"Behind the statistics are the stories: a crying baby taken from her mother's arms and handed to social workers as the mother is handcuffed and taken away, her parental rights terminated by a US judge; teeneage children watching as parents are dragged from the family home; immigrant parents disappearing into a maze-like detention system where they are routinely locked up hundreds of miles from their homes, separated from their families for months and denied contact with the welfare agencies deciding their children's fate."
These children, and their parents, are not just statistics. They are real people - like Alexis Molina who, according to the above article, was just 10 years old when his mother was suddenly deported to Guatemala, even though his Guatemala-born father, his 8-year old brother and his 19-year old stepsister are all US citizens. Alexis, as the article states, is worrying about why his mother cannot come home and why his father is crying all the time.
The article also describes Amelia Reyes-Jimenez, who carried her blind and paralyzed baby boy across the Mexican border in 1995 in order to seek better medical care in Phoenix, Arizona, where she settled and had three more children, all American citizens. In 2008 she was arrested and her 3-month old daughter was snatched from her arms as the other children, aged 7,9, and 14, screamed "Mommy, Mommy!"
After a two-year legal battle, locked in detention and clueless about her rights, she was deported in 2010.
The article also describes the horror experienced by Janna Hakim, a 16-year old US born girl and her US born siblings, whose Palestinian mother was suddenly whisked away by ICE agents who raided their Brooklyn apartment one morning. Surely America can do better than this in respecting human rights.
What sense does it make to grant a temporary reprieve from deportation to young people who are not citizens in order to let them hold onto their chances to finish their education or develop their careers, while at the same time snatching away the parents and destroying the families of American children?
Of course, some people within one of our two major parties have their own solution to this dilemma - strip the American-born children of their citizenship, lock them up and deport them too. If this party wins in November, we may see attempts to make this nightmare a reality.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years