Since 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed more than 200,000 immigrants from the country who say they are parents of a child who is a U.S. citizen.
The figures, obtained by Colorlines through a Freedom of Information Act request and published Monday, put the problem of family separation into sharper focus as politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling for renewed attention to immigration reform.
Deportations of people who say they are parents of a child who is a U.S. citizen account for 23 percent of total removals in the period covered by the data, according to reporter Seth Freed Wessler of Colorlines.
A heart-wrenching, one-paragraph letter from 12-year-old Anthony Hoz published last month by The Huffington Post highlights the pain of family separation that has become a common by-product of the current U.S. immigration system.
“Dear Rex Ford, please I beg you with all my heart to leave my dad with us,” Hoz wrote in the letter to immigration judge Rex Ford. “Because we need him so he can pay the bills of the house, and we love him so much. Me and my brothers are so sad because we don’t have my dad with us.”
Hoz’s father Maximino Hoz faces an uphill battle to escape deportation. A hardworking contractor who volunteered hundreds of hours at a community food distribution service, according to friends and colleagues who submitted letters to his case file, Hoz also has two DUI’s on his record.
The Hoz family took part in the “Wish for the Holidays” campaign, which delivered some 10,000 letters to members of Congress and President Barack Obama asking to stop separating families through deportation.
An ICE spokesperson sent a statement to The Huffington Post saying most of the undocumented immigrants cited in the new data had criminal records, though the agency has yet to compile official figures.
“ICE is sensitive to the fact that encountering those who violate our immigration laws may impact families,” the statement says. “ICE uses prosecutorial discretion to release individuals in ICE custody for humanitarian reasons such as being the sole caregiver of minors and when we are aware that the detention of a non-criminal alien would result in any child (U.S. citizen or not) being left without a[n] appropriate parental caregiver.”
The numbers provided by ICE, available on Colorlines' website, run from the last quarter of fiscal year 2010 until the last quarter of fiscal year 2012.