New Study: 88K U.S. Citizen Children Lost Parent to Deportation
- New Study: 88,000 U.S. Citizen Children Lost Parent to Deportation
UC Davis News & Information March 31, 2010
The United States government deported the lawful immigrant parents of nearly
88,000 citizen children between 1997 and 2007, most for relatively minor
crimes, according to a new report released today by the University of
California, Davis, and University of California, Berkeley, law schools. The
deportations often resulted in psychological harm, behavioral changes and
problems in school for the children left behind.
The report, "In the Child's Best Interest?" is based on analysis of data
provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, interviews with
affected families and comparisons of U.S. and international human rights
standards. The study was a joint project of the Immigration Law Clinic at
the UC Davis School of Law, and the International Human Rights Law Clinic
and the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity
at the UC Berkeley School of Law. It is available on the Web at
Drastic revisions to U.S. immigration laws in 1996 led to large numbers of
deported lawful permanent residents (green card holders), who now make up
nearly 10 percent of immigrants deported from the U.S., according to the
report. More than 68 percent of the deported green card holders were
deported for minor crimes, including driving under the influence, simple
assault and nonviolent drug offenses, it found.
"It is often the children in these families who suffer the most," said Raha
Jorjani, a clinical professor of law at UC Davis and supervising attorney
for the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic. "This nation should take into
consideration the impact on families of uprooting individuals with such
strong ties to the U.S."
Current immigration laws severely restrict the ability of judges to consider
the impact of deportation on children, the report notes. The authors
recommend restoring judicial discretion in all cases involving the
deportation of lawful permanent residents with U.S. citizen children.
"As Congress considers immigration reform, it's time to focus on how the
current system tears apart families and threatens the health and education
of tens of thousands of children," said Aarti Kohli, director of immigration
policy at Berkeley Law's Warren Institute. "This report makes a strong case
for restoring judicial discretion so immigration judges can weigh the best
interests of children when deciding whether to deport a parent."
The report examined deportation records between April 1997 and August 2007.
The nearly 88,000 legal residents who were deported during this decade had
lived in the U.S. an average of 10 years, and more than half had at least
one child living at home, the study found. About half of the children were
under age 5 when their parent was deported.
In 1996, Congress also significantly broadened the category of crimes
considered an "aggravated felony," the report notes. Although this category
initially included only the most serious offenses, it now includes
nonviolent theft and drug offenses, forgery and other minor offenses, many
of which may not be felonies under criminal law. Lawful permanent residents
convicted of an aggravated felony are now subject to mandatory deportation
and other severe immigration consequences.
"Parents who are deported on the basis of criminal convictions are being
punished twice for the same mistakes," Jorjani said. "Even after
successfully completing their criminal sentences, they are subject to
penalties within the immigration system - and risk losing their families."
Families interviewed for the study reported negative health impacts, such as
increased depression, sleeplessness and anxiety. Children also reported
plummeting grades, increased behavioral problems and the urge to drop out of
school to help support the family.
The study compares U.S. immigration policy to international standards that
more adequately address potential family separations in deportation
"The rights to health and education are firmly entrenched in international
human rights law, and nearly every major human rights treaty recognizes the
need for special protection of children," said Laurel Fletcher, director of
the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the UC Berkeley School of Law.
"The U.S. should consider revising its policy to mirror European human
rights standards, which permit judges to balance a nation's security
interest with the best interests of the child when considering deporting a
"In the Child's Best Interest?" makes a number of recommendations to U.S.
* restoring judicial discretion in cases involving the deportation of lawful
permanent residents who have U.S. citizen children;
* establishing clear judicial guidelines in these family deportation cases;
* reverting to the pre-1996 definition of "aggravated felony";
* collecting data on U.S. citizen children of deported lawful immigrant
parents to gain fuller understanding of impact of deportation laws.
Co-authors of the study include J.D. candidates and research analysts at UC
Davis School of Law and UC Berkeley School of Law.
Full at: http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=9447
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