(CNSNews.com) – A panel of pro-immigrant experts and activists unveiled a report on Monday that said workplace and home raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency had harmed “hundreds of thousands” of children, most of them U.S. citizens.
“With deportations numbering more than 1.9 million in this decade, it is safe to conclude that hundreds of thousands of citizen children have suffered the loss of one of more parents or effective deportation to a foreign land, as a consequence of enforcement over the past several years,” the report said.
The report, compiled by a Minneapolis law firm, estimates that of the 5 million children in the United States with one or both parents who are illegal aliens, 3 million are citizens because they were born here, as guaranteed by the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Current immigration law and enforcement policy is marginalizing what it means for these children to be U.S. citizens,” said the report, which is entitled “Severing a Lifeline: The Neglect of Citizen Children in America’s Immigration Enforcement Policy.”
Panelists at the discussion on Monday at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., expressed optimism that the Obama administration will, in time, change policies and enact legislation to protect citizen children and give their parents a way to gain legal status.
Doris Meissner, who is with the Migration Policy Institute and served as commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Clinton administration, said that the economic crisis may delay some of those changes.
But she also said there are some things Congress could do, including passing the law that would give illegal alien children who graduate from an American high school and have no criminal background an opportunity to attend college or serve in the military to earn legal status.
Meissner said the proposed law, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or Dream Act, was “the most promising” piece of legislation to help “citizen children.”
Attorney John Willshire Carrera, who led a national project to make sure public schools complied with the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision that guaranteed undocumented children a right to a public education, said the Dream Act has languished too long on Capitol Hill.
“It just doesn’t make any sense why our society – these are our kids – refuses to acknowledge that they are one of us and that they can go on and study,” Carrera said.
When asked by CNSNews.com how the Department of Homeland Security can enforce immigration law in the workplace without raids, James Kremer, one of the authors of the report, said it was immigration policy that was the problem.
“I think we need to reassess whether it would be in our best interest, not just for the undocumented immigrants but the workforce as a whole, to consider changes in the law which would afford current undocumented individuals in the workforce a meaningful pathway to lawful status,” Kremer said.
Ajay Chaudry, moderator of the discussion and director of the Urban Institute’s Center on Labor, Human Services and Population, cited the increases in raids and deportations in recent years as the reason so many citizen children have suffered.
Between 2003 and 2008, he said, there was a 10-fold increase in workplace raids, from 445 in 2003 to more than 5,000 in 2008.
“There was also a sharp increase in home enforcement raids,” Chaudry said, “from 1,900 in 2003 to 34,000 in 2008.”
ICE’s Office of Public Affairs told CNSNews.com that they were not familiar with the report and could not comment.