Deportation of Parents Casts Lives of U.S.-Citizen Kids into Turmoil

Deportation of Parents Casts Lives of U.S.-Citizen Kids into Turmoil

"Twelve-year-old Jason Penate spent the holidays hanging close by his father. They picked out a Christmas tree and decorated the front window of their Gainesville, Va., home with candy canes, and Jason tried very hard not to think about whether his father would still be here in the new year.

Jorge Penate, a Guatemalan national who came to the United States illegally in 1997, has a hearing scheduled Monday that will determine whether he can stay in the country. A drunken driving arrest two years ago launched deportation proceedings and cast his family’s future into uncertainty.

Jason wrote a letter to the immigration judge, explaining that the three days his father was detained in 2011 “were the worst days of my life” and asking not to be separated from him again. “If he does have to leave I think every day of my life is going to be the worst,” Jason wrote.

More than 1 million illegal immigrants were deported in the past three years, a record number reflecting increased enforcement efforts under the Obama administration. The crackdown has spun the lives of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens — including children like Jason — into upheaval.

In fiscal 2012, an estimated 150,000 U.S.-citizen children had a parent deported, according to a study by Human Impact Partners, a health advocacy group.

Concerns about the fate of these children are adding an emotional pitch to the call for comprehensive immigration reform. Advocates are urging Congress to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, allowing divided families to be reunited and preventing children from having to live with the daily fear that they could lose their parents." - WaPo, Dec. 29, 2013.