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Groundbreaking Report Highlights Impact of Detention And Deportation on Children

November 8, 2011

(New York, NY) – A new report from Detention Watch Network ally Applied Research Center (ARC) conservatively estimates that there are more than 5,000 children currently living in foster care whose parents have been either detained or deported.  To date, despite a constant stream of anecdotal evidence there has been no national data available on the numbers of children impacted by the intersection of immigration enforcement and child welfare systems.

The report, “Shattered Families,” offers groundbreaking national research on the perilous intersection of immigration enforcement and the child welfare system. Historic levels of detention and deportation have resulted in the separation of thousands of families across the United States. These families face formidable barriers to reunification, and in many cases have been permanently separated. Based on its data, ARC projects that at least 15,000 more children will face these threats to reunification in the next five years, if the same rate holds true for new cases.

The report shows the severe impact detention has on families, both due to separation of parents from their children, but also due to the many barriers ICE needlessly creates, which undermine family unity.

The report states that “ICE consistently detains parents when they could be released on their own recognizance or expand the use of community-based supervisory programs. Once detained, ICE denies parents access to programs required to complete CPS case plans. Due to the isolation of detention centers and ICE’s refusal to transport detainees to hearings, parents can neither communicate with/visit their children nor participate in juvenile court proceedings. Child welfare caseworkers and attorneys struggle to locate and maintain contact with detained parents.”

“Shattered Families” clearly exposes how due process and discretion must be restored to the immigration system in order to ensure family unity. Repealing mandatory detention is one step to reducing the reliance on detention and stopping the unnecessary separation of parents from their children. In addition, ICE should move towards community-based supervisory programs that support family unity.

“Our research found time and again that families are being left out of decision-making when it comes to the care and custody of their children,” said Seth Freed Wessler, author and principal investigator of “Shattered Families.” “As a result, children of detained and deported parents are likely to remain in foster care when they could be with their own family.”

ARC will present a public informational webinar on Thursday, 11/10, at 3pmET/12noonPT.

The report and information on events is available at

To schedule an interview with ARC, please contact Communications Manager Rebekah Spicuglia or 646-490-2772.


The Detention Watch Network is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to educate the public and policy makers about the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for humane reform so that all who come to our shores receive fair and humane treatment. For more information visit

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