It may seem farcical to many people in Reading to have a child defending him- or herself in a deportation proceeding, but the sad reality is that there are a large number of children each year who are being detained by federal agents and left to represent themselves as they seek asylum. It is heartbreaking to think that there are children as young as two who are futilely tasked with finding evidence that supports an asylum case; if they fail, they could be sent back to a country that is rife with violence.
Last week we talked about the role immigration reform played in President Obama's inauguration speech. Now, President Obama is already advocating for immigration reform and is somewhat forceful in his message to Congress: start working on immigration issues. This could mean major changes for those people in Lancaster who are searching for a path to citizenship.
Immigrants to Lancaster know just how serious a deportation order can be -- it can mean years away from family and friends. While many within the immigration field may believe that immigration reforms are coming, the amount of money that is currently spent on immigration enforcement is overwhelming. In 2012 alone, the U.S. spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement, more than it spent on all other law enforcement combined. Twenty-four percent more.
This blog has previously talked about President Obama's new initiative that potentially creates a pathway to legal residency and the effect it has had on Pennsylvania residents. Now, President Obama has issued another immigration reform that will help U.S. citizens and their undocumented spouses stay together longer. This new aspect of family-based immigration is set to go into effect in March.
Imagine being told that you have a certain amount of time left with your children before you will be forced out of the country. Tragically, this is an extremely common situation and one that happens to families in Lancaster quite frequently. When a parent is not a citizen and the children are, there is always the risk that the parent could be deported before he or she has a chance to naturalize and become a citizen, too.
Every high school senior in Lancaster County dreads the question, "What will you be doing next year?" but it is one that is particularly frustrating for teenagers who were brought to this country illegally as children. They may believe college is out of reach because they cannot access federal financial aid and, in only a few states, can they receive in-state funding. The prospect of paying full tuition, even if they can receive in-state tuition in Pennsylvania, may be too much for many undocumented immigrants. One school, however, has recently set up a million-dollar scholarship fund specifically for undocumented immigrants.
It is heartwarming when the federal government doesn't stand in the way of someone trying to pursue his or her dream. For the undocumented immigrants who came to this country with their parents, that has not always been the case, but a few weeks ago we covered the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provides immigrants who came here illegally as children two more years to stay in the country. A recent report lists a South Philadelphia college student as the first person in the area to receive the reprieve.
Imagine being sent to a country where you don't speak the language, don't have any family or friends, and are barred from returning to the only country you have ever known. While this may seem like the plot of a movie, this is a reality for many people in the United States and Pennsylvania. Within the U.S., there are approximately 1.7 million children and young adults who were brought to this country by their parents before they had turned 16. For many of them, they don't speak the language of their "home" country, they don't have any connections to the country and are, in every sense of the word, Americans. The only problem, however, is that they don't have the legal right to be in the country.
When immigrants are arrested in Pennsylvania, they may find themselves in a dangerous situation and fighting to stay in the country with their friends and families. For those people who entered the United States illegally, there is a very real threat that they will be deported and will need strong deportation defense lawyers to explain what options they have going forward. It appears, however, that it is not just immigrants that may be in this situation, however, but also American-born citizens.