Last year’s deportation statistics were record-breaking. During 2011, approximately 400,000 undocumented immigrants were deported (Record Number of Illegal Immigrants Deported in 2011). Like all immigrant populations, the people deported formed a heterogeneous group. While some were recent arrivals, others lived here for years and established families, potentially containing mixed-immigration statuses. Too frequently, the deportation of an undocumented immigrant means dividing families in ridiculous ways. Many times, it means that the citizens-by-birth children of undocumented parents are the only members of the family allowed to stay in the U.S. Separating children from their parents is issue enough by itself, but let’s take a moment to think about the ramifications of these divisions. What would you do if you were sent to your home country and your child was living in a foreign nation, potentially without the widespread network you have at home? Get back in that country ASAP.
The penalties for reentry are based on the reasons for a person’s deportation in the first place. When attempting to reenter, undocumented immigrants who were deported as otherwise law abiding non-citizens face a fine and imprisonment for up to two years. In addition, undocumented immigrants deported for criminal activity are fined and imprisoned for up to ten years (Legal Information Institute). This means that if your family was divided because of deportation issues, not only would you have to risk everything you’ve already risked before and spend money you may or may not have, but you now face years of incarceration, wherein you have no opportunity to provide for your family.
Parents aren’t the only people that face the pressure of deportation. If children are allowed to stay, the parents can choose to leave them with family, bring them back to the home country, or put them in foster care as wards of the state. These options place both financial and ethical stress on the government. The financial aspect is clear: more wards of the state means more funding must be put towards foster care. Ethically, the government has to think about whether we are comfortable with U.S. citizens living in environments their parents worked so hard to leave.
When it comes to deportation, no one wins. Deportation separates families, displaces children, tests our nation’s ethics, and causes the government to spend more money. So far, the only alternative is an open border, which will not happen any time soon. Clearly, something needs to change. The question is how are we going to limit deportations through immigration reform?