Republican members of the House are playing games with immigrant families' futures. Tuesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing was meant to explore policies that would offer (some) DREAMers' a path to citizenship. Their half-hearted, piece meal approach exemplifies House legislators' aim to stall and thwart the passage of a comprehensive reform bill that would ensure a fair and inclusive path to citizenship. These very same leaders voted against the DREAM Act in 2010, but confronted with mounting political pressure, they are now scrambling to piece together legislation that on its face may appear to present a solution, but would ultimately leave millions of aspiring citizens off of the path to citizenship.
Providing a path for DREAMers while promising to perpetuate and expand the policies that detain and deport their family members is insulting and shortsighted; this approach to reform does nothing to fix our current system.
There are 2.1 million DREAMers living in the United States today and Hugo Carrascos is one of them. Hugo came to the United States from Mexico with his family when he was 10 years old; he grew up and still lives in Phoenix. He didn't know about his immigration status until he got to high school when his other friends were getting driver's licenses and he couldn't.
After Hugo finished high school, he started volunteering as a mentor for at risk youth. He later married his wife, who is an Arizona native and a U.S citizen, and works for the state's Child Protection Services. Hugo and his wife have two children now: Jayden and Hailey.
In 2011, Hugo was arrested by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Maricopa County Sheriff's Office during a worksite raid at the restaurant where he worked. He was detained for three months in county jail while his wife was pregnant with their first child. He was charged with using false documents, which is a felony under Arizona law.
Because Hugo came to the United States as a child, he was eligible to remain in the country under the temporary Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. His brother and sister have already been granted temporary deportation relief under DACA. Hugo is now ineligible for DACA and legalization because of his felony conviction under Arizona law; he is in deportation proceedings and faces permanent separation from his family.
Moreover, Hugo is now ineligible for the path to citizenship. No judge is be able to consider the circumstances of his case: married to a U.S. citizen, father of two U.S. citizen children, the nature of his offense and his work with at risk youth in the church. A judge would be bound by law to order his automatic deportation to Mexico, a country he hasn't seen since he was 10 years old.
Record high deportations have resulted in roughly 205,000 parents of U.S. citizen children being deportedbetween 2010 and 2012. Research has consistently shown that separation from a parent due to immigration enforcement has devastating short-term and long-term outcomes for children, including adverse impacts to their mental and physical health, academic performance and economic security.
This week, DREAMers once again demonstrated their courage and tenacity by crossing the Mexico border and demanding border agents allow them re-entry to the United States. Their protest raises a critical question that has gone unanswered in the current reform debate: what about the hundreds of thousands of family members who have been deported and permanently separated from their families? DREAMers living in the United States have watched their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters removed from their homes and permanently banished from the United States. Why don't they fit into reform?
A DREAM Act modeled bill alone is insufficient. The House needs to stop playing politics and threatening the promise of true reform. America demands more. The country is counting on Congress to pass a final bill that provides a path to citizenship for DREAMers, their family members and the rest of the 11 million.
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyer's Guild is a member of the Immigrant Justice Network (IJN) with the Immigrant Defense Project and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. IJN sits on the Steering Committee of the CAMBIO campaign.