Most of the respondents were part of Mexican immigrant households in New Jersey and Ohio. The groundbreaking research found common threads of experiences with wide ramifications. The two locations of study have drastically different contexts, which indicate that the results are likely true in other places across the country.
In both contexts, the study found, children live in constant fear of losing a parent because of immigration enforcement, while parents fear losing their children if they themselves are detained and deported. Immigration enforcement also results in increased rates of single mothers, left behind by their deported partners, who struggle to make ends meet.
Children living in families that have been ripped apart are burdened with the uncertainty of not knowing where their next meal will come from and whether they will ever see their deported parent again. Other children end up in foster care after the detention or deportation of one of their parents.
According to the Applied Research Center's recent "Shattered Families" report, more than 5,000 children around the country currently in foster care have parents who have been detained or deported. That is 1.25 percent of the children in foster care as a whole, but in the next five years, at least 15,000 more children will face these same threats if our heavy-handed immigration enforcement system is not halted.
Moreover, because undocumented immigrants live side by side and in the same communities as authorized immigrants and citizens, the effects of harsh immigration policies reverberate beyond families that directly experience a deportation. Dreby's research finds that the knowledge alone that deportations are occurring in one's community puts children and families — and thus entire communities — on edge.
Children grow up learning to associate police with immigration officials, making them afraid to interact with law enforcement personnel, Dreby finds.
Bill Flores, a retired San Diego County assistant sheriff described how collaboration between police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement is problematic because, it is "the antithesis to community-oriented policing."¦ It's the kind of relationship that makes this segment of the community reluctant to call or come forward as a witness of a crime."
Children should not be afraid of the police. It's simply a bad association to make at such an early age, and one that will lead to less safe communities in the future.
Also as a result of heavy immigration enforcement, even young children equate "immigrant" with illegal status, Dreby found, and they stigmatize their own immigrant heritage.
The study suggests that our current immigration enforcement policies will hurt the U.S. in the long run. As a result we lose the talent of native-born children who are deported because they avoid family separation. To reform such policies, we must implement more commonsense and comprehensive immigration policies that provide a road map to earned citizenship and can grant security to mixed-status families and their communities.