I’d like to believe that most Americans, perhaps with the exception of the hard-core nativists, like Rep. Steve King and Romney advisor Kris Kobach, knows our nation’s immigration policies need to be fixed. But behind these failed policies are real human beings: those who make decisions about how to enforce the law, and those whose lives are affected by their decisions. Two disturbing stories from this week show how bad decisions at the hands of the bureaucracy can have extreme consequences for real people. And, while no parent should lose his or her child — and no one should be assaulted — in the name of “enforcing the law, that’s is exactly what’s happening.
In Missouri, a State Judge actually ruled in favor of Mother-Child separation – because the mother was an undocumented immigrant. A series of national media outlets have told the heartbreaking story of Guatemalan immigrant and mother Encarnacion Bail Romero who had her parental rights terminated by a judge simply because she is in deportation proceedings. As National Journal’s Rosa Ramirez explained,
A Guatemalan mother jailed on immigration charges neglected her infant child while she was behind bars, and her parental rights should be terminated, a Missouri judge ruled on Wednesday. The decision paves the way for the boy, now 5, to remain adopted by the Carthage, Mo., couple who have cared for him and who changed his name to Jamison. At the center of the case are immigration policies and practices that often make it difficult for children to reunify with parents. The case has garnered international attention and criticism by U.S. civil rights and immigration groups, as well as the Guatemala government.
As a mother, I find it hard to fathom that this could actually happen. But it is true. La Opinión editorialized about Encarnacion’s case:
Romero was arrested on May 22, 2007 in an immigration raid at the poultry processing plant where she was working. At the time, her son was less than a year old. Romero was still in custody when the first judge in Jasper County found that she had “abandoned” her son due to failure to visit or maintain contact with him. This is not the first such case in the turbulent history of mass deportations of recent years in the United States. Studies by specialists have revealed that there is no consistency or coordination between the various federal, state and local agencies to ensure that parents arrested for not having papers can make decisions or even stay in contact with the children left behind. One estimate indicates that some 5000 children have been placed in foster care for this reason. This is an issue that needs to be urgently addressed. In the United States 5 million children, most of whom are citizens, have at least one undocumented parent. Continued family separations have an impact that goes beyond the obvious and affect society as a whole. Another outcome, in practice, is that of penalizing undocumented status with the loss of a child, and penalizing the child, who is innocent, with the loss of a father or mother. Such a penalty is excessive and illegal.
That penalty is excessive. It’s inhumane. And it should not be legal.
Meanwhile, a new PBS Documentary, which airs tonight (7/20), alleges Border Patrol Agents engaged in sexual and physical violence against Immigrants: The documentary exposes disturbing stories of immigrants who suffered sexual and physical abuse at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol agents. As Business Insider previews:
The nearly 60,000-strong U.S. Border Patrol has a history of torture and sexual abuse against immigrants trying to cross the border, according to a five-month investigation by PBS’ Need To Know. Need To Know, PBS’ TV and web news magazine, aired the first part of its look into the rough-and-tumble Border Patrol culture back in April. The second segment is scheduled to air Friday evening. In a recently released teaser for Friday’s report, a crying woman is shown tearfully telling the organization that a Border Patrol agent put his hands under her blouse and groped her. The agents are also guilty of outright torture, Need To Know reports.
Here’s the trailer:
We have to draw the line. No one should lose the right to be the parent of her son simply because she is in deportation proceedings. No one should be assaulted by the Border Patrol simply because she is an immigrant. I think we can all agree that things like this should not happen in America. Your status as an immigrant does not negate your status as a human being.
For more information on these important issues, check out the Applied Research Center’s report on immigration enforcement and the child welfare system and the ACLU’s report and resources on sexual abuse in immigration detention.