Editor’s Note: This is the first in a long line of articles about the new administration’s issues and policies that impact the world of foster care. Had Foster Focus been around at the advent of the previous administration, the coverage would have been the same. I pride myself on keeping the magazine neutral on all things political and that will not change with a new administration. As new policies appear, they will be covered in an unbiased fashion. And as has always been the case, you will be given information on both sides of any subject and asked that you form your own opinions.
The first installment is deportation and immigration. This issue is set to have a large impact on the number of children coming into care and it is the first policy of the new administration to influence the system. Weeks of research and annoying experts in the field with my novice questions have led to the following examination of the new policy on deportation and how it relates to foster care.
It’s no secret. We are a nation divided.
Beit political differences, religious differences, differences on policies, differences on what’s right, what’s wrong, differences of opinions on any subject.
Oddly, that which divides us, also brings us together. The reasons to come together are not always of a pure nature, and on most occasions, it’s a chance for two rivaling schools of thought to tell each other why the other is wrong.
For as long as anyone can remember, immigration has been a hot button issue, it has recently ignited fiery debates and protests throughout the country. One of the cornerstone platforms that then, candidate, now, President Donald Trump, ran on was what he characterized as an unprecedented surge in migration of illegal immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America. He built his voter base by generalizing Mexican immigrants as “bad hombres” rapists and criminals. He insisted that the Mexican government was sending their worst citizens here in droves. With his election to the highest office in the land, came an oath to fulfill his campaign promises of new policies and changes in the world of immigration, namely, stricter deportation guidelines. These policy changes have the potential to directly impact America’s foster care system.
In order to get to the foster care aspects of deportation, we must first dissect deportation itself and to get there we must walk through the intricate maze of immigration.
At its core, immigration is the influx of foreign citizens to this country. Simple, right? You’re going to find that nothing in the world of immigration and deportation is simple.
Much like foster care, deportation is a tree with more branches than one can count. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, another branch shoots out. It’s a landscape as vast as the border which is at the center of it all. In order to get a handle on all of this, it is best to break it down into sections, starting with what exactly immigration entails, to do that, we start with a look at the reasons people come here and the paths to citizenship they have as options.
As the land of opportunity, the United States is in the unique position of being the place that seemingly everyone across the planet wants to be. To live. To prosper. To live the life they see in the movies. To experience life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For here is the land of milk and honey, a car in every garage and a chicken in every pot. It’s also home of the strongest military and the strongest chance for a person to advance in life and career. They’re joining family that have already made the journey here. In a world made smaller by technology, they come here for love or friendship. Some with the title “immigrant” were born here. So, that’s why they are or coming here, in droves. Who are they, where are they coming from?
They come from everywhere. No joke. They come from every corner of the globe. You don’t acquire a name like “the melting pot” by having only a few foreign nations’ people represented. No, the United States is where the world comes to play, work, live and build a future. They come from Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and all points in between. When they arrive, for the most part, they are greeted by a member of the department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This begins their time in the US.
There are different types of stays here in America. You can come to visit as a tourist. You can come here as a skilled laborer, which encompasses both technological and agricultural work. You can come here to be married or just to live. At first glance, all that is asked of you in return is to stay current on all the necessary paperwork and stay out of trouble.
There are many, many different ways one can come to this country through a myriad of choices in the Visa program. Some examples of available visas include; athlete, amateur or professional (competing for prize money only), business visitor, exchange visitor, media, journalist, religious worker, student: academic, vocational, tourism, vacation, pleasure visitor and victims of human trafficking and criminal activities are all listed as available nonimmigrant visas.
The immigrant visa program has fewer options and the process becomes more specialized; Spouse of a U.S. Citizen, Spouse of a U.S. Citizen awaiting approval of an I-130 immigrant petition, Fiancé(e) to marry U.S. Citizen & live in U.S., Intercountry Adoption of Orphan Children by U.S. Citizens, Certain Family Members of U.S. Citizens, Certain Family Members of Lawful Permanent Residents. Employer Sponsored Employment; Employment-Based Immigrants, including [preference group]:Priority workers [First], Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability [Second], Professionals and Other Workers [Third], Employment Creation/Investors [Fourth], Certain Special Immigrants: [Fifth], Religious Workers, Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters, Iraqis Who Worked for/on Behalf of the U.S. Government, Afghans Who Worked for/on Behalf of the U.S. Government; Other Immigrants; Diversity Immigrant Visa and the Returning Resident visa comprise the available visas for immigrants.
The ability to come here is relatively simple and easy. To stay here? That’s a different animal.
There are 4 paths to citizenship available for those who wish to become Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) or Green Card Holders, they are; Green Card through Marriage to a U.S. Citizen or LPR, DREAMers Green Card through Employment with LIFE Act Protection, Asylum Status, and the U Visa for Victims of Crime. There is also an exclusive option for those in the military option, Green card holders in the military and their family.
A brief description of each is as follows: Green Card by marriage is the most common path to citizenship and the easiest to explain. It’s what it sounds like; someone from a foreign country marries a US citizen or LPR. Cut and dry, right? Not really. Like all things immigration, there is fraud, falsified records and a slew of rules and regulations that can be broken leading to deportation. The DREAMers Green Card through Employment with LIFE Act Protection is a bit more complicated. Let’s start with what a DREAMer is. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protects eligible undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were children. The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) is a piece of legislation first introduced to congress in 2001 that grants a pathway to citizenship to young people who were brought to the United States as children without documentation. The final two options; Asylum Status which is available to anyone in the United States who has suffered persecution in his or her home country or who has a well-founded fear of persecution if he or she were to return to that country. It is important to understand that the persecution must be done by the government, or by a group that the government is unwilling or unable to control and the U Visa for Victims of Crimes which protects non-citizens who have been victims of certain crimes and who have aided law enforcement. A U visa provides legal status, employment authorization, and can also provide a path to permanent resident status.
Once someone has acquired their Green Card, to become a Naturalized American, steps are required. First, they must maintain residency in the US for 30 months of the 5 years needed to apply for citizenship. They then must fill out form N-400 from Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form allows petitioners to fill in their background information and allows them the ability to do things like change their names. The form comes with a cost of $595 with an additional cost of $85 for a biometrics fee. When the application is accepted they then must submit to a background check and fingerprinting by the FBI. Next an appointment with an immigration officer to review the N-400 and to take an exam covering civics, government, comprehension of English and US history. They are given two chances to pass the test. Finally they attend an oath ceremony where they are publicly granted US citizenship and given a certificate of naturalization as proof of their citizenship.
And that is how someone can go from a foreigner to a US citizen. So why all the fervor?
Here is where the waters muddy in traditional immigration situations (we’ll cover border crossings shortly). This grey area we are about to enter is called illegal immigration. There are many ways a person goes from visitor/tourist/immigrant to illegal immigrant.
As it turns out, lapses in paperwork lead the legitimate reasons someone finds themselves with an illegal status. Failing to check in, change of address without notification, failure to report to ICE offices or leaving the country longer than the specified time allotted, all account for a change in status. That’s the “not so bad” form of illegal immigration.
Now for the bad and the ugly.
Even though statistics show that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than US citizens, crime is still a real issue in the world of immigration. Drug smuggling, border crossing, coyotes, boat containers full of girls and all other forms of human trafficking, all fill in the boxes for the dark side of illegal immigration. If you ask a politician, this is the illegal immigration they are trying to combat in Washington. These are the illegal immigrants that took a businessman and television personality to the White House. There was no mistaking the outcry from the audiences at campaign events, the seriousness with which they take the issue of illegal immigration.
That is our snapshot of the immigration system in the US. We now understand how to get here, how to stay here and what not to do if you want to live out your days here. We also know some of the reasons someone can be told to leave. How does this impact foster care? In what ways will new policies effect the foster care system. We are now ready to explore those questions.
To the novice, foster care is ill prepared for an influx of children. Foster care has its own problems. Lack of funding. Lack of foster parents. Lack of case workers. Lack of housing of any kind. Where will we put all the children. In any given year there are 400,000 to 450,000 kids in care. How would the system handle more kids?
Have we seen this before? Yes. There is a laundry list of instances where immigrants have been in the forefront of the American conscious but we need look no further than 2011. The previous administration, responding to an influx of immigrants from Central America, some sent as drug mules, some seeking asylum and the bulk being children, set standards that moved deportations and crackdowns on border protection into high gear. There were family detention centers set up as a visible deterrent to those who would cross the southern US border. Deportation numbers went way up. Surprisingly, foster care numbers did not see a dramatic increase. Efforts were made to find relatives and in most cases families were permitted to stay together.
Here in 2017 the rhetoric has been targeted at Mexican immigrants as opposed to Central American immigrants as there was in 2011. There’s also been an increase in the tone when addressing illegal immigration. Though illegal border crossings have dramatically decreased yearly, in part due to the ever-dwindling numbers of women and children seeking asylum from Central America, efforts to thwart would be crossers has increased. ICE raids, office check in deportations and immigrants taking sanctuary have all become the norm since the elections. Despite the number of border detainees dropping nationally, deportations are up. According to federal authorities, the increase in those deportations has been a concentrated targeting of identified adults who are in the US illegally.
Still, the fear among immigrant families is palpable. Some states have even taken steps to ensure that the new administration policies do not impact their states’ foster care numbers. There are sanctuary cities where law enforcement does not specifically target immigrants and other cases, states are preparing immigrant residents for their possible deportation by assisting them in implanting a plan of action.
The state of Connecticut is providing a guide for parents to come up with a plan that includes “standby parents” in the event that a mother father gets deported or is detained.
The governor released the “Family Preparedness Plan,” which includes information on steps people can take on their own – without the help of an attorney – to develop a child care plan. The guide is available in English and Spanish
“We want to make sure that people have a plan in place should immigration action separate their families,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a statement.
He said estimates are that around 22,000 U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrant parents live in the state of Connecticut.
Actions like this are the result of serious talk by this administration. During senate hearings, newly appointed Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, addressed the possibility that adults crossing the U.S. border illegally could be placed in detention, separated immediately from their children, who would be transferred to foster care or to relatives who are legally in the U.S.
He stated: "Yes I'm considering (that), in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network. I am considering exactly that. They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents. ... It's more important to me, Wolf, to try to keep people off of this awful network."
Leon Fresco, a former DOJ official in the previous administration, said the previous administration considered, but ultimately rejected, the move.
"It was never implemented because the idea was that it was too detrimental to the safety of the children to separate them from their parents, and the thinking was it was always preferable to detain the family as a unit or release the family as the unit," Fresco said.
"We have tremendous experience of dealing with unaccompanied minors," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room." "We turn them over to (Health and Human Services) and they do a very, very good job of putting them in foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States."
And it seems like that will continue to be the approach as the administration has since walked back support for any separating of families. In addition, the administration has recently stated that DREAMers can rest easy, as they will not be targeted for deportation in the future after a handful of DREAMers found themselves at risk. In recent weeks, a slight shift in rhetoric has brought little relief to families afraid of being separated, though it does show a change in thought by the administration.
A crackdown on illegal immigration, proposed travel bans and a nation on edge for what may happen next. This is the climate of foster care and immigration at the moment. It’s a lot of uncertainty and talk. Whether or not these policy changes will have any impact on foster care remains to be seen, but there is no denying that the nation’s foster care system stands on alert, preparing for any possible increase in numbers.
It’s important for even the people involved in foster care to understand as much about immigration as they possibly can to potentially help the silent victims in all this; the kids.