72,410 individuals deported in 2013 said they had one or more U.S.-born children according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records.

Of those, 39,410 were deported in the first half of calendar year 2013 and the remaining 33,000 in the second half. In other words, in one year alone, many thousands of U.S.-citizen kids were separated from at least one parent. This is yet another example of how the U.S. deportation machine is systematically separating families and, in the process, affecting the lives of U.S.-citizen children, many of whom end up in foster care facilities after their parents are deported.

The records were included in two reports to Congress issued by ICE in April; however, they were only made public yesterday through an article published in the Huffington Post. Paradoxically, the reports emphasize ICE’s commitment to “ensuring that the agency’s immigration enforcement activities, including detention and removal, do not unnecessarily disrupt the parental rights or family ties of alien parents.” Citing former ICE Director John Morton’s Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities and Prosecutorial Discretion memoranda, the reports highlight the priority given to family ties in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. In particular, based on this philosophy, the agency reportedly focuses its limited resources on its enforcement priorities—namely, those who pose a threat to national security or public safety, recent unauthorized entrants, and those who are fugitives or obstruct immigration controls.

However, as we have previously shown, despite claims by ICE that it prioritizes the apprehension of terrorists, violent criminals, and gang members, the agency’s own deportation statistics do not bear this out. Rather, most of the individuals being swept up by ICE and dropped into the U.S. deportation machine committed relatively minor, non-violent crimes or have no criminal histories at all. Ironically, many of the immigrants being deported would likely have been able to remain in the country had the immigration reform legislation favored by the administration become law. A recent study conducted by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) found that in Fiscal Year 2013, two categories that ICE has classified as convicted criminals—namely, those with a traffic violation and individuals convicted of immigration offenses—“comprised half of all those classified by ICE as ‘criminal’ deportees.”

The fact that a significant number of those being deported have strong family ties in the United States and thousands of them have U.S.-citizen children is not a minor piece of information—especially in a context in which the Obama administration is reviewing its deportation policies and the House fails to act on immigration reform.

Photo by Taichiro Ueki.