President Obama has often been praised for his consistent support of families. He has been touted as a family man who makes time for his wife and two daughters, Malia and Sasha, even while on the campaign trail and in the White House. In the lead-up to his presidency, Obama promised to advocate for families by increasing funding for after-school programs, providing refundable tax credits to help with child-care, and encouraging states to adopt paid leave programs for parents.
However, in spite of these lofty goals and worthy programs, the Obama administration simultaneously implemented a strategy which destabilized countless families and jeopardized the well being of children nationwide.
During his first two years in office, President Obama's administration has dramatically increased enforcement of undocumented immigrant deportations. In fact, the current administration has far exceeded the Bush administration's level of deportations and is currently spending $17 billion per year on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
While it is worth noting that the White House has encouraged ICE to focus its enforcement on felons and past criminal offenders, the fact remains that over 62 percent of deported individuals in 2010 were non-criminals.
Due to the effect that deportations have on families and communities, this notable increase in immigration enforcement measures stands in stark contrast to what is often seen as our country's commitment to family values and humanity.
When undocumented parents are swept up in workplace raids or detained for even "appearing" undocumented, the repercussions to their families are often devastating. Children, many of whom are U.S. citizens, find themselves effectively orphaned as parents are deported without notice. The distress children face in these situations is impossible to overstate and our communities will experience the consequences.
In a recent study, children of families who underwent separation due to raids and deportation reported increased depression, negative health impacts, and increased anxiety. These children also suffered from increased behavioral problems, falling grades, and great pressure to drop out of school in order to support their struggling families.
This type of destabilizing immigration enforcement fractures family units and endangers the most vulnerable members of society: our children.
Christians have a strong history of proclaiming family values and unity as the bedrock of our country's success. We must continue to speak out for the rights of these families who are at great risk of separation due to our destabilizing immigration policies.
A change must be a made. If we are a serious about reforming the immigration system, we must start with a discussion of the root causes of immigration, including free trade agreements and agriculture subsidies, which impoverish many of our neighboring southern nations. Changing such entrenched policies is not as easy as deportation enforcement, and will likely take a great deal of time and commitment by our political leaders.
In the mean time, we must encourage our federal law enforcement agencies, such as ICE, to focus their efforts on those who have committed serious crimes instead of on those who are simply here working hard to raise families.
And finally, as the body of Christ, we must pray for families stuck in the middle our country's immigration policies.
Andrew Simpson is a Policy intern for Sojourners.