The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the implementation of “The Parental Interests Directive,” a new policy on immigration and deportations aimed at protecting parents and ensuring that they are not separated from their children.
“ICE personnel should ensure that the agency’s immigration enforcement activities do not unnecessarily disrupt the parental rights of both alien parents or legal guardians of minor children,” the directive states.
Under the new directive by the Obama administration, ICE agents are free to consider the background of the immigrant they are taking into custody and use their own discretion in detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants. Although the policy will not prevent family separation completely or change the lives of children who have already had family members deported, the policy change urges immigration authorities to consider alternatives to detention for undocumented immigrants when minor children are involved.
In 2011, roughly 5,100 U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants who were detained or deported were living in foster care, according to an analysis by the Applied Research Center. That study estimated that 15,000 more children would end up in foster care by 2016 if high numbers of detention and deportation continued under the Obama administration.
“Our immigration system has the potential to inflict terrible damage on our most vulnerable citizens: children. This new directive is a necessary step toward protecting family unity, and we welcome ICE’s efforts to ensure that parents are not torn away from their children during – and after – deportation proceedings,” said National Immigration Law Center Executive Director Marielena Hincapie, who was happy to see a shift to a more humane immigration policy.