New Details on Obama’s ICE Suggest More Child Welfare/Immigration Clashes

Last week, The Chronicle reported on Children in Harm’s Way, a tome of findings and recommendations pertaining to the way Immigrations and Customs Enforcement deportation decisions affect family involvement in the child welfare system. Earlier this week Wendy Cervantes, one of the many authors on that report, followed with an op-ed on the subject.

The gist, and there was much more than just this discussed: U.S. citizen children are often removed into foster care when their parents are deported, making the circumstance of being deported a nominal grounds for family court intervention; and detention of potential deportees renders attempts by some families to live up to reunification or family preservation plans ordered by the court.

The preference expressed by the report is that, unless the parent involved is a criminal with serious felonies, ICE not disrupt families through deportation, or at the very least let the child move with the deportee.

The USA Today story today, which outed some internal ICE communication about agency priorities, is not good news for those authors or like-minded proponents of immigration reform. The article begins:

U.S. immigration officials laid out plans last year that would ratchet up expulsions of immigrants convicted of minor crimes as part of an urgent push to make sure the government would not fall short of its criminal deportation targets, new records obtained by USA TODAY show.

The story mostly relies on e-mails and other documents related to ICE’s field office in Atlanta, where the pressure to deport more criminal immigrants each yea

From an e-mail sent by ICE Assistant Director of Field Operations David Venturella: The Atlanta field office “is about 1200 criminal removals under when compared to last year. …The only performance measure that will count this fiscal year is the criminal alien removal target.

That appears to have led to ICE participation in traffic checkpoints led by local law enforcement. But a document referring to such an initiative in the Charlotte, N.C. area suggests that ICE would have law enforcement divert low-level offenders (including driving without a license) at the checkpoint. From the document:

When the vehicles get sent to the secondary location, we (ICE) would be set up there, waiting to interview all individuals that we deem necessary. This would include occupants in the vehicle if necessary. We would also have the mobile IDENT machines set up to take fingerprints to get an accurate account of all immigration and criminal history.

How many low-level offenders have been brought into deportation proceedings as a result of such strategies? Impossible to say, and of course impossible to know how many are parents. But it does seem clear from the Atlanta field communications that the pressure is on ICE staff to keep a healthy dose of “criminal removals” coming.

The authors of Children in Harm’s Way expressed concern at the Obama administration’s encouragement of partnerships between ICE and local law enforcement.

“If the Bush Administration’s immigration enforcement strategy can be defined by its focus on workplace immigration raids, Obama’s enforcement approach is defined by its focus on local law enforcement and jails,” wrote Seth Wessler of the Applied Research Center.

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 1118 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.