This “Shattered Families” report is the first to provide evidence on the national scope and scale of the problem. As more noncitizens are detained, the number of children in foster care with parents removed by ICE is expected to grow. Without explicit policies and guidelines to protect families, children will continue to lose their families at alarming rates.
Among the Key Finding In the Report:
• That there are at least 5,100 children currently living in foster care whose parents have been either detained or deported (this projection is based on data collected from six key states and an analysis of trends in 14 additional states with similarly high numbers of foster care and foreign-born populations). This is approximately 1.25 percent of the total children in foster care. If the same rate holds true for new cases, in the next five years, at least 15,000 more children will face these threats to reunification with their detained and deported mothers and fathers. These children face formidable barriers to reunification with their families.
• In areas where local police aggressively participate in immigration enforcement, children of noncitizens are more likely to be separated from their parents and face barriers to reunification. For example, in counties where local police have signed 287(g) agreements with ICE, children in foster care were, on average, about 29 percent more likely to have a detained or deported parent than in other counties. The impact of aggressive immigration enforcement remains statistically significant when our research controls for the size of a county’s foreign-born population and a county’s proximity to the border.
• Immigrant victims of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence are at particular risk of losing their children. Approximately one in nine of the stories recounted to ARC in interviews and focus groups involved domestic violence. As a result of ICE’s increased use of local police and jails to enforce immigration laws, when victims of violence are arrested, ICE too often detains them and their children enter foster care. Many immigrant victims face an impossible choice: remain with an abuser or risk detention and the loss of their children.
• ARC has identified at least 22 states where these cases have emerged in the last two years. This is a growing national problem, not one confined to border jurisdictions or states. Across the 400 counties included in our projections, more than one in four (28.8 percent) of the foster care children with detained or deported parents are from non-border states. Whether children enter foster care as a direct result of their parents’ detention or deportation, or they were already in the child welfare system, immigration enforcement systems erect often-insurmountable barriers to family unity.