Border Enforcement Policies Ensnare Parents of US Citizen Children


On November 20, 2014, US President Barack Obama used his executive authority to make sweeping, though non-permanent, changes to the US immigration system without legislative action by Congress. The resulting Immigration Accountability Executive Actions delay the deportation of over four million unauthorized migrants living in the United States. To qualify for the new category of deferred deportation, migrants must have been living in the United States for more than five years without certain criminal convictions and have US citizen or legal permanent resident children. The president also de-prioritized the deportation of some categories of unauthorized migrants and streamlined the process for people with US family members to obtain visas to stay in the country legally.

At the same time the executive actions did not address existing border removal policies that punish and provide no relief to families that have already been separated by harsh and overly inclusive deportation policies. Since 2008, the Obama administration has deported more than two million [2] non-citizens. The government classifies a growing number [2] of these deportations as “border removals,” a category that appears to comprise anyone removed after apprehension by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including the Border Patrol, despite a person’s previous ties to the United States. The executive actions give priority to the often summary deportation of noncitizens apprehended at the border unless they qualify for asylum or other relief or unless there are “compelling and exceptional” factors indicating the person is not a threat to national security, border security, or public safety. This meager loophole appears to do little to end summary deportations of people apprehended at the border with deep ties to the United States.

Human Rights Watch has previously documented [3] the harms caused by the Obama administration’s aggressive immigration enforcement at the border on people seeking to join their US citizen children or other loved ones. The present analysis is based on CBP data Human Rights Watch recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act on the nearly 700,000 adult and child migrants that the CBP apprehended along the US border in fiscal years 2011 and 2012, the most recent data Human Rights Watch obtained.

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