Between January and June 2011, United States authorities deported 46,000 undocumented immigrants with American citizen children, according to a report from colorlines.com. Past research by Colorlines showed that at least 5,100 of the U.S. citizen children have been placed in the foster care system and face an uphill struggle to be re-united with their detained or deported parents.
Deportations have climbed to near record levels during the Obama Administration’s tenure. Nearly 400,000 people were deported in fiscal year 2011 alone. The tool that the Obama administration has used to ratchet up deportations is a program known as ‘Secure Communities.’
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) runs Secure Communities, in association with the F.B.I. and local law enforcement officials. Historically, local law enforcement shared fingerprint data with the F.B.I. in order to facilitate the capture of federal criminals. Secure Communities works by requiring that the F.B.I. share the fingerprint data obtained from local police with I.C.E. Then, I.C.E. crosschecks the fingerprints against their database of immigration violators and the person is deported if they are found in the database. The Obama Administration has been at pains to express that Secure Communities is primarily focused on criminals within undocumented immigrant communities.
However, data from the Colorlines report shows that Secure Communities has had more of an impact on the percentage of parents of American citizens deported (increasing from around 8% to 22% of all deportees). What’s more, another study has criticized Secure Communities for being discriminatory against Latinos. That study found that 93% of people deported under Secure Communities were Latino. This is troubling because Latinos only account for around 75% of all undocumented immigrants. Critics have also said that Secure Communities amounts to a fishing expedition, because the structure of the program lends itself to an arrest first, investigate later mentality. This mentality has been blamed for the fact that Secure Communities has netted an estimated 700 American citizens during its short runtime.