Regional Center for Border Rights Addresses Family Separation in New Report and Presents Findings Today to Congressional Hearing
LAS CRUCES, NM—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights (RCBR) released a new report, TORN APART: How U.S. Immigration Policy Fragments New Mexico Families, that features first-hand testimonies from mixed immigration status families about the effects of immigration enforcement in New Mexico. Along with these personal accounts, the RCBR lays out specific recommendations to make immigration policy fair and humane. Coinciding with the release of the report, RCBR Director Vicki Gaubeca will present the findings in a congressional hearing on “Lines That Divide US: Failure to Preserve Family Unity in the Context of Immigration Enforcement at the Border”--- chaired by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) today in Washington, D.C.
“We compiled this report to document the daily personal and societal toll that our broken immigration policy has on our communities here in New Mexico,” said RCBR Director Vicki Gaubeca. “As Americans, we need to seriously assess whether our current immigration policy properly reflects our values and whether we believe that forcibly separating fathers, mothers and children across national boundaries is in line with who we are as a nation. Currently, the United States distinguishes itself in the international community by our refusal to recognize a fundamental right to human unity. This report highlights the need for U.S. immigration policy to allow immigration courts to recognize family separation as a legal defense against deportation.”
Like many families living in the U.S.-Mexico border region, the majority of the families identified in this study are made up of members who have different immigration statuses. When U.S. immigration officers deport a father, his spouse and U.S. Citizen children often remain behind to suffer mental, emotional and financial hardship. Family separation is especially hard on children, who in addition to the psychological stress of having a loved one torn away, also may suffer disruption of education, food insecurity and diminished access to healthcare.
In more than half the testimonies in this report, families were separated as the result of local law enforcement inquiring into the immigration status of a person during a routine traffic stop, such as failure to signal or a broken windshield. In two cases, officers targeted vehicle passengers who were unrelated to the reason for the initial stop.
“When local law enforcement officers try to enforce federal immigration law, they not only break up families, they break the trust of the communities they are supposed to protect,” said Gaubeca. “Families of mixed immigration status will be afraid to call the police when they are in danger or have witnessed a crime if they believe that they might be torn away from their children in the process.”
Download a PDF copy of TORN APART: How U.S. Immigration Policy Fragments New Mexico Families.