Connecticut Law Review Volume 44 - Issue 1

Disappearing Parents: Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System

This Article presents original empirical research that documents systemic failures of the federal immigration enforcement and state child welfare systems when immigrant parents in detention and deportation proceedings have children in state custody.

The intertwined but uncoordinated workings of the federal and state systems result in severe family disruptions and raise concerns regarding parental rights of constitutional magnitude. This Article documents this phenomenon in two ways. First, it presents an ―anatomy of a deportation,‖ providing a case study of an actual parent whose detention and eventual deportation has separated her from her four young children for over two years and threatens her with the permanent termination of her parental rights. Next, it presents the results of empirical research conducted on the child welfare system to demonstrate that the case study is not an isolated occurrence. On the contrary, the analysis of the results of over fifty surveys and twenty interviews with attorneys, caseworkers, and judges in the juvenile court system in one Arizona county makes clear the concerns identified in the case study occur with alarming frequency. The analysis section of this Article provides a discussion of the constitutional and structural concerns raised by the case study and data presented. Finally, the Article concludes with reforms that can be adopted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, child protective services agencies, and Congress to address the systemic failures described.

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