The latest KBI report provides insight into a growing proportion of deported individuals received at the comedor—long-term U.S. residents—their well-established connections and social ties in the U.S., and the harmful impact of deportation on their lives, their families, their children, and their communities.
While many deportations from the U.S. involve those immediately apprehended upon crossing the southern border or those recently arrived, a greater proportion of deportees are individuals who have established roots in the U.S. and have lived in the country for years or decades. This month, the KBI releases a study of deported U.S. residents and the profound and far-reaching effects of their removals. Prepared in conjunction with the Center for Migration Studies of New York and the Office of Justice and Ecology at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Communities in Crisis: Removals and Their Human Consequences is based on surveys of deported individuals received at the KBI comedor in the first five months of 2018. It also includes testimonies and quotes from family members in Florida, Michigan, and Minnesota parishes who must contend with the emotional, psychological, spiritual, and financial repercussions of these traumatic separations. Here are some of the study’s most significant findings. You can read the entire document at: http://cmsny.org/publications/communities-in-crisis/
THE DEPORTED: Among the 133 survey participants, all were Mexican nationals, and all but one were men (a near-accurate reflection of those received by the KBI, though having 3–4 women in the sample rather than one would be closer to the mark). They resided in 16 U.S. states, most in Arizona, with an average residency of 19.9 years. Almost half had entered the U.S. as minors (44%); now over three-quarters have U.S. citizen children (78%), and most have U.S. citizen spouses or partners (42%); in general, even more left behind spouses or partners of any status (63%). (At a national level, of the close to 11 million undocumented residents in the U.S., more than half have lived in the country for 10–20 years.)
Examining the participants’ deep roots in their communities, 26% owned homes, 52% participated in church activities, and 96% held down regular jobs. Their incomes went to support their U.S. families as well as other relatives in the U.S. and Mexico. In addition, 42% reported supporting dependents with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or autism. Regarding their deportation experience, most reported that it began with an arrest by local police (61.5%), even though many were not later found guilty of a crime; their average detention period was 96 days; and 72% were not able to secure legal counsel to prepare and argue their cases.
THE IMPACT: Living relatively secure lives prior to their deportation, interviewees confessed to assuming that clean records, the presence of U.S. citizen dependents, and regular attendance at immigration check-in appointments would ensure their uninterrupted residence. The end of a prosecutorial discretion policy under the Trump administration (which essentially translates to no deportation priorities) caught them off guard, without a deportation plan (91%), and created an atmosphere of intense fear and uncertainty in immigrant communities. The data reveal that, between 2016 and 2018, the percentage of deportees who were detained while living in the U.S. and report being separated from family rose dramatically from 43% to 78%.
The toll on deportees, families and partners, and communities is considerable. Those deported are now indigent in a country they no longer identify with, and require integration services, in the areas of employment (78.2 percent), finances (68.4 percent), housing (56.4 percent), emotional support (56.4 percent), and social orientation (54.9 percent). Only a third reported feeling safe since their deportation (35.4%). Their family members left behind also experience deep insecurities and destabilization. The majority of respondents reported that, without their income, there is not enough money to support their children (74%) or for their family to live on (83%). The removal of an undocumented working adult halves household income, and pushes many families into poverty. Deportations also tear at the fabric of the wider community, leaving everyone feeling fearful and vulnerable, most especially immigrants.
Most disturbingly, the disruption for children when a parent is deported is devastating. Multiple studies have documented the negative outcomes they suffer—depression, anxiety, fears of separation, social isolation, self-blame, aggression, withdrawal, and negative academic consequences. Often, they shut themselves off from friends or lose interest in activities they used to enjoy. One deportee’s wife reported that their 12-year-old son had attempted suicide on the day of his father’s scheduled deportation. As the family tries to pull together, cover expenses, and find a new “normal,” the children are bewildered and undone. It is a trauma that will likely haunt them throughout their lives.
RECOMMENDATIONS: The report outlines a range of recommendations to mitigate the harsh effects of these deportation policies and promote the integrity of families and communities. Here are some of the major ones:
- Funding: Congress should appropriate funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice at lower levels overall, and reduce appropriations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in light of its indiscriminate enforcement policies and their negative impact on the safety and integrity of U.S. families and communities.
- Prosecutorial Discretion: DHS should issue prosecutorial discretion guidelines that de-prioritize the arrest and removal of long-term residents; persons with family members who are U.S. citizens; and those without criminal records or with records for only minor offenses.
- State and Local Police: Police departments should limit collaboration with ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to prevent local police from acting as immigration agents, to promote public safety, and to ensure that no group of residents fears reporting crimes or otherwise cooperating with the police.
- Faith Communities: Faith communities throughout the U.S. should address the urgent priorities of immigrants, including the need for safe and welcoming spaces, deportation planning, transportation, access to legal counsel, accompaniment to places where they might be vulnerable to arrest, and other support services. In addition, they can play a critical role in providing pastoral care to immigrants and educating non-immigrant members and the broader public about the immense challenges facing immigrants.
CONCLUSION: Since its founding, the KBI has consistently offered direct aid, information, and accompaniment to all who arrive at the comedor. The KBI has also monitored their shifting demographics, including the surge of longtime U.S. residents over the last two years. In keeping with the priorities outlined above, we advocate for less funding for DHS and its subsidiary agencies, ICE and CBP. Over the decade from 2002 to 2012, the immigration budget nearly tripled, from $6.2 billion to $17.6 billion, and there are plans to raise the FY2017 appropriation of $21 billion to $25.5 billion in FY2019.
You can help. By calling your congressional representatives, you’ll add your voice to those concerned about an unfettered immigration budget in the absence of humane, just, and workable immigration reform. Additionally, you can learn more about the immigrants being deported through their testimonies. In this newsletter, we include the story of Emmanuel, a father and husband recently deported after 13 years in the U.S.: https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/emmanuels-story/. We also shared the accounts of Guadalupe García de los Rayos, a mother deported from her children in February 2017, whose story received national attention (https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/guadalupes-story/), and Juan, who was deported from his children after 20 years in the U.S. (https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/juans-story-struggles-deportation-family-separation/ ).
These personal narratives add to our understanding of the suffering endured by separated families and deported immigrants stranded far from the lives they have built in the U.S. We can see ourselves in their struggles, and their deep devotion to family and fortitude in the face of tragedy offer a source of inspiration in our accompaniment and advocacy. Please share these stories, so more people can understand the inhumanity and blatant misrepresentation of anti-immigrant rhetoric and the devastation wrought by our outdated immigration system.