Immigration Reform

09.18.13

Families Ripped Apart by Deportation

A protest today against deportations included several immigrant mothers in danger of being separated from their children. Sally Kohn asks, why is Obama intent upon destroying their families?

This morning two mothers chained themselves to the fence of the White House. Their act of civil disobedience was directed at President Obama, who every day is ripping 1,100 families apart. One of the protesters is a mother of three from Phoenix. The other is a 53-year-old grandmother from Atlanta. Why is Obama singlehandedly destroying their families? Because these women and their families are undocumented immigrants.

The president has made comprehensive immigration reform a signature goal of his second term. And yet while Republicans in the House are, as usual, blocking his efforts while not proposing any solutions of their own, the president has the unilateral power to halt rampant deportations against the very people immigration reform would help. If Obama is frustrated by inaction to help undocumented immigrants in America, why doesn’t he do something to stop the 1,100 deportations per day under his watch?

In fact, despite championing immigration reform, Obama has deported undocumented immigrants at a higher and faster rate than President George W. Bush. Detaining and deporting aspiring Americans costs our government upwards of $5 billion per year. Which doesn’t even include the human cost—mothers and fathers literally taken from their homes in the middle of the night, or at checkpoints while taking their children to school. Parents vanished. Kids abandoned. In a profoundly disturbing report, the Applied Research Center found that literally thousands of citizen children are languishing in the foster-care system because their parents were deported. And these are parents whose only crime was wanting to make a better life for themselves and their children.

In a speech supporting comprehensive immigration reform in January, the president talked about the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America today:

“Many of them have been here for years. And the overwhelming majority of these individuals aren’t looking for any trouble. They’re contributing members of the community. They're looking out for their families. They're looking out for their neighbors. They're woven into the fabric of our lives.”

These are parents whose only crime was wanting to make a better life for themselves and their children.

Then why is the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency, under Obama’s sole authority, tearing apart the fabric of these families and our communities every single day? Moreover, despite assurances otherwise, at least one in four immigrants deported under ICE’s Secure Communities program had no criminal record whatsoever. According to one exposé, in some communities, the error rate is even higher.

The two moms chained to the White House fence—Maria Guadalupe Crespo and Maria Cruz Ramirez—were joined by five other aspiring Americans and announced far-reaching plans for immigrants and allies to descend on Arizona and physically stop ICE from carrying out deportations. In October Crespo, Ramirez, and thousands more will literally put their bodies on the line to shut down ICE for a day. Their actions send a powerful message. Aspiring Americans expressed their vision of hope for the future with their bodies as they came to this country, and now they are using their bodies to express dismay at their demonization and abuse at the hands of a nation that so obviously relies on their labor.

“I have to fight for the future of my children and for my future,” said Ramirez in anticipation of the White House protests.

Crespo added, “I am here fighting for our rights. We have to give it our all, whatever happens.”

Here’s hoping Obama is listening and has the heart and wisdom to use his authority to do the right thing and stop these unjust deportations.