On November 3, 2011 a report on the status of U.S.-born children whose parents have been detained or deported by immigration agents was released (Shattered Families). According to this study, there are more than 5,000 American children who are in foster care and are unable to be reunited with their detained or deported parents. Of course, this figure does not include children who have been left in the custody of relatives due to deportations and detentions. This situation has become increasingly more problematic, because the U.S. Government has increased the number of deportations and detentions to record-breaking levels.
These children are U.S. citizens, so they cannot be deported. However, the system is practically turning them into orphans. The anti-immigrant argument of some is that these children are “anchor babies”, an attempt by their parents to guarantee that they can permanently stay in the country. However, the “anchors” are clearly not working—the children’s undocumented parents are unable to stay. What this situation is doing is leaving these children adrift. According to congressman Jose Serrano, New York representative, if this situation is not corrected, these children may have to be adopted by other families.
The immigration system also has a lot of undocumented minors detained. These children crossed the border without their parents, often with the goal of being reunited with their parents who are living in this country. These children are being detained, without the possibility of meeting up with their parents. Some of them are in a legal state of limbo, as their undocumented parents are afraid of trying to come claim them.
This situation is particularly painful for me personally, because many of the people who are against fair and comprehensive immigration reform claim to be in favor of “family values.” However, they don’t want exceptions to exist to the deportation policy that would take into consideration the situation of children born here in the United States. It’s even more sad that many of these people are Christians who get angry when the political and social policies of this country attack the family. But it’s clear that their perspective only applies to certain families…not to poor or immigrant families.
It’s time to call our sisters and brothers who support policies that separate families and leaves children at the mercy of government systems to repentance. If we really are pro-family, it’s time for us to show this at all times, in all circumstances. It’s time for us to look for a fair solution to the issue of undocumented people and their children who have been born or raised in this country. If we are not prepared to work for them, then it’s time for us to recognize that we are not pro-family, to recognize that our politics are more important to us than our family values.
Dr. Juan Martinez is associate provost for diversity and international programs and associate professor of Hispanic studies and pastoral leadership at Fuller Seminary. Since coming to Fuller in 2001, Dr. Martínez has also served as director of the Center for the Study of Hispanic Church and Community. Among other topics, his current research focuses on the history of Latino Protestantism, Latino Protestant identity, ministry in Latino Protestant churches, and Latino and Latin American Anabaptists.