Children suffer the most serious emotional and physical consequences from U.S. deportation policies, a University at Albany researcher finds.
Sociologist Joanna Dreby, in a report published this month in The Journal of Marriage and Family, finds that children in Mexican families, whether or not they have had a family member deported, were prone to emotional distress, fears of separation and associating immigration with illegal activity.
“An act of deportation splits up families, separating U.S. citizen children from their parents. But the threat of deportation has an equally devastating impact on children,” said Dreby.
In 2011, some 400,000 foreign-born individuals, a record number, were detained and removed from the United States. Mexicans families are the most likely in the U.S. to be affected by deportation policies. While Mexicans constitute approximately 30 percent of the foreign-born residents in the United States and 58 percent of the unauthorized, in 2010 they represented 83 percent of those detained, 73 percent of those forcibly removed, and 77 percent of voluntary departures.
Drawing on interviews with parents and children in 80 Mexican households, including parents’ stories about the impact deportations have had on their families as well as the often overlooked accounts from children, Dreby documented how an emphasis on enforcement that targets Mexicans at the level of public policy has had disturbing consequences for young children who have Mexican immigrant parents, many of whom are U.S. citizens.
A common fear parents expressed in interviews is that they could lose custody of U.S. born children if detained or deported.
Children in Mexican immigrant households describe fear about their family stability, association of immigration with illegality, and a predisposition to denying their immigrant heritage.U.S. citizen children today are growing up afraid of the authorities, who can potentially tear their families apart.