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The United States Of America

The United States of America, the country of immigrants, where people from all over the world migrate to, risking their lives for a better quality of life. These immigrants arrive wanting to escape their poverty stricken destiny, running away from organized crime, drugs, corruption, violence, oppression, job scarcity and many other reasons. They arrive here with the hope of achieving the American dream or at least giving their children a better future. Although it is not that easy. Once they arrive immigrants encounter discrimination, hostility, language barriers, unequal opportunities and must learn to adapt to a whole new culture. But that is not all, after facing endless barriers, adjusting to the culture, language, customs and finally settling down, these families must live every day of their lives in fear of one day being potentially deported.

Since the Trump administration the United States considers any person without proper documentation a target for being deported. The deportation of one family member can force transnationality on an entire family. Family members are held in detention centers for an indefinite amount of time, enduring inhumane conditions, uncertain of their fate. If or when the person is deported they most likely leave their family behind, as they do not want them to return to what they had escaped from. Family members are then left with a financial and emotional burden. The families that do return to their country of origin must learn to adapt once more to the culture and face many more barriers. Deportation especially has serious long lasting effects on children. Children are left without the basic needs, emotional support and shelter of their parents. Parents or siblings of U.S. citizen children should not be deported, despite their immigration status, because of all the negative effects this trauma can have. Children who experience this will lose someone important to them and be forced to adjust to a new life. Whether children actually experience a deportation in their family or live in fear of the possibility, they are more likely to develop psychological and behavioral problems and have unnecessary emotional and financial stress.

Who are we deporting? Criminals, drug dealers, rapists? No, anyone in the United States without proper documentation is a target for deportation. It doesn’t matter if you are 3 years old or 80, if you paid your taxes or committed a crime, if you have a U.S. citizen spouse or child or if you have been living in the U.S. for 50 years. Under the Trump administration anyone who entered the U.S. illegally risks the threat of being sent back to their country of origin. According the Pew Research center in 2016 unauthorized immigrants made up 3.3% of the total U.S. population. Two-thirds of these 10.7 million people have been living inside the United States for more than 10 years (Krogstad). 10 years of assimilating into the American culture, 10 years of working hard, paying taxes, following the law, contributing to the economy. A study done by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse revealed that 44,435 people were in custody of ICE as of the first 6 months of 2018. Out of this group, 58 percent had no criminal convictions. About 26 percent had committed a minor infraction, such a traffic violation and 16 percent had committed what ICE considers a serious crime, which can include selling marijuana (Buiano). More than half of the people in custody of ICE have no other reason for being deported than entering the country illegally. Even though the Department of Homeland security claims to be prioritize deporting immigrants who pose a serious threat to public safety or national security. The Center for Public Integrity revealed that between 2015 and 2017 ICE had deported 87,351 people who claimed to have at least one U.S. citizen child (Buiano). Although this number is actually higher as many parents facing deportation do not reveal they have citizen children out of fear. 87,351 families were separated and ripped apart in the span of 2 years. More than 87,000 children were left without a parent, forced to grow up faster and take on the financial responsibility for the family left behind. Others follow their parents, betrayed by the country they considered home, forced to the country they fled.

Being part of a mixed-status family can have severe consequences to the development of children. Mixed-status families consist of at least one family member, usually the parents, being undocumented and at least one family member a U.S. citizen, generally the child. The American Immigration Council has revealed that “almost six million citizen children under the age of 18 live with a parent or family member who is undocumented” these children live with fear, usually suffer of anxiety, stress, or depression. The situation we live in right now can cause thousands of children unnecessary mental health problems. Studies have even shown that children of undocumented mothers are born “premature and underweight, complications that put babies at risk for infant death or long-term health problems” (American Immigration Council). These children are already facing health problems before they are born because of the stress and fear the threat of deportation can have. Just by knowing that there is a possibility of having their families separated can add an unneeded burden to the already stressful life of being a disadvantage minority child. Unfortunately the children that do experience a family deportation are more prone to “substance abuse, unemployment and interpersonal difficulties with family members” (Gulbas p. 221). Children that go through this trauma suffer long term consequences. After an event like this, these children often begin questioning their identity, as “the condition of being undocumented, is not bound to the body of a person who lacks legal status. It extends and ripples outward to affect partners, families, and communities regardless of authorization status” (Zayas p. 2464). Just by knowing that the United States doesn’t think that someone you care about belongs here and can be susceptible to an enormous amount of pain makes you doubt whether something like that could happen to you, and whether you can belong to a country that denies certain rights and opportunities to undocumented people. Over 60 percent of the children that are left behind after their parents are deported have reported to feel some sense of exclusion (Zayas p. 2469). The label of being undocumented can cause children to not fit in at school, especially since a deportation can shine light on the family’s, usually unknown, status. This situation can cause students to feel inferior and will many times lead to attention problems, social withdrawal and a decline in school performance.

The deportation a family member can not only bring emotional and psychological effects but it can have a significant effect on the family’s finances. Losing a primary provider for the families income can cause many hardships including difficulty paying bills, “poverty, hunger and food insecurity and lack of access to healthcare, safe housing and education” which adds more stress to children’s lives (Gulbas p. 221). Especially in Latino families since the man is usually the sole provider. Older children are forced to step up and take on more responsibility by getting a job and taking care of the family financially. This can lead to them neglecting their other responsibilities, school being the most important.

Families that return to their country after a deportation do not have it easy arriving. Immigrants that “experience deportation understand it not as a return home but as an exile from the country they consider their home” (Ybarra p. 40). These people have come to the U.S. hoping for a better life and after finding it, settling down and assimilating they are forced to leave what they have been considering home for years. Once arriving to their country the family faces a “loss of social and economic status,” they are forced to start over, once more. They are faced once again with “unemployment, lack of access to social security, and poverty” especially because of their older age and limited skills or simply insufficient jobs (Romo p. 215). Children that follow their parents after a deportation likely suffer of culture shock. They must learn to get accustomed to a new culture, schedule, lifestyle and many times language. This can be especially hard at school because most of the time immigrant parents do not teach their children their native language. Most children can speak it but when it comes to reading and writing they have a hard time, giving them a huge disadvantage at school. Participants in Zayas and Gulbas’ study on children returning to Mexico after experiencing a parental deportation described their lives as tolerable, but cited “poor education, little protection from violence, and few career opportunities, participants attempted to adapt to their circumstances, but in general, they viewed life as more difficult” (Zayas p. 2466). The majority of these children have no other choice than to return to Mexico with their parents. This can lead them to perceive a lost future and resent their parents for making them completely change their lives, by having new responsibilities in Mexico and losing opportunities of bettering their socio-economic status by advancing in their education.

Mixed-status families face many problems living in a country that is not very welcoming to immigrants. They constantly live in fear and are denied certain rights preventing them from advancing in society. Children feel excluded and may develop many psychological problems and unnecessary stress. Although all is not bad as a small percentage of the children returning to Mexico gained a sense of belonging after being reunited with their extended kin. The US government might be aiming to rid their streets of illegal immigrants that only take advantage of government aid and welfare, stealing jobs and increasing crime but in reality they are just leaving millions of children without their parents. And these numbers will increase as our current president has ordered to deport as many unauthorized immigrants as possible.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.

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