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Facing Our Future
Children in the Aftermath of
Immigration Enforcement
Facing Our Future
Children in the Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement

2100 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
ph 202.833.7200
fax 202.467.5775
http://www.urban.org

Ajay Chaudry
Randy Capps
Juan Manuel Pedroza
Rosa Maria Castañeda
Robert Santos
Molly M. Scott

Facing Our Future
Children in the Aftermath of
Immigration Enforcement
Ajay Chaudry
Randy Capps
Juan Manuel Pedroza
Rosa Maria Castañeda
Robert Santos
Molly M. Scott

February 2010

The Urban Institute

Copyright © 2010. The Urban Institute. All rights reserved. Except for short quotes, no part of this report
may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the
Urban Institute.
The Urban Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research and educational organization that examines the social, economic, and governance problems facing the nation. The views expressed are those of
the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

CONTENTS
Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v
Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
2. The Separation of Parents and Children Following Immigration Enforcement . . . 13
3. The Effects of Immigration Enforcement on Family Well-Being . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
4. Consequences for Children: Child Behaviors, Changes, and Adjustments . . . . . . . 41
5. Community Responses to Raids and Other Arrests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
6. Facing Our Future: Conclusions and Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69

iii

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
he authors of this study are Urban Institute researchers Ajay Chaudry, Juan Manuel Pedroza, Rosa Maria Castañeda,
Robert Santos, and Molly M. Scott and Randy Capps of the Migration Policy Institute. The views and conclusions
included herein are those of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the project’s funders,
the Urban Institute, or its funders.

T

The authors are especially grateful to the parents and
family members in Grand Island, Nebraska, Miami, Florida,
New Bedford, Massachusetts, Postville, Iowa, Van Nuys,
California, and Rogers-Springdale, Arkansas, who shared
their experiences with us. In addition, the authors would like
to thank staff at the many organizations in these sites who
helped the research team meet key community contacts as
well as parents and other caregivers in the study sites.
Without their assistance, the study would not have been possible. In particular, the authors would like to acknowledge
staff at the National Council of La Raza and their affiliates;
St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Postville and Luther
College in Decorah, Iowa; the Economic Opportunity
Agency of Washington County and Legal Aid of Arkansas
in Northwest Arkansas; the Coalition for Humane
Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles; the Florida Immigrant
Advocacy Center and the Sant-La Haitian Neighborhood
Center, Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami, Catholic Legal Services
and Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church in Miami, Florida;
Catholic Social Services and Our Lady of Guadalupe parish of
St. James Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Greater
Boston Legal Services and the Massachusetts Immigrant and
Refugee Advocacy Coalition in Boston, Massachusetts.
The authors thank the Advisory Group for the project
for their support in designing the study. Olivia Golden,
Robin Harwood, and Heather See of the Urban Institute

reviewed earlier drafts of the report. In addition, the authors
thank the many individuals who reviewed the report,
including Donald Hernandez, Hunter College and the
CUNY Graduate Center, Department of Sociology; Bill
Ong Hing, Professor of Law and Asian American Studies,
University of California, Davis, School of Law; Donald
Kerwin, Vice President at the Migration Policy Institute;
Kathleen Moccio, Consulting Attorney for Dorsey &
Whitney LLP; and Carola Suárez-Orozco, Professor of
Applied Psychology, New York University, Steinhardt
School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
The authors would also like to acknowledge the assistance of a number of Urban Institute researchers during the
project. Molly Hawkins, Adam Kent, Katie Mathews, and
Jennifer Pelletier provided valuable assistance during data
collection and editing. Elysa Baron and Celeste Chaves
worked diligently on completing transcriptions of project
interviews, and Muriel Germeil provided valuable CreoleEnglish translation and interpretation services.
Finally, the authors acknowledge the generous support
of the project’s funders. This report was made possible by
the support of the Foundation for Child Development,
Carnegie Corporation of New York, the W. K. Kellogg
Foundation, the Peppercorn Foundation, the A. L.
Mailman Family Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey
Foundation.

v

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
he United States is engaged in an intense debate about immigration policy, particularly with regard to unauthorized
immigrants. Debates rage about the economic contributions of immigrants to the U.S. economy, job competition, tax
payments and fiscal costs, and the integration of immigrants in communities and the larger society. Largely absent from
the discussion are the children of immigrants. Today there are an estimated 5.5 million children with unauthorized immigrant
parents, about three-quarters of whom are U.S.-born citizens. The nation builds its own future by investing in the futures of
children, spending billions of dollars annually on education and health care, preventing abuse and neglect, and supporting
when necessary their basic needs for housing and food. Yet, unlike other children in this country, the children of unauthorized
immigrants live with the fear that their parents might be arrested, detained, or deported. The federal government spends billions each year to arrest, detain, and deport immigrants, many of whom are parents. By one estimate, in the last 10 years, over
100,000 immigrant parents of U.S. citizen children have been deported from the United States.

T

This report examines the consequences of parental arrest,
detention, and deportation on 190 children in 85 families
in six locations across the country. Building on our 2007
report Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on
America’s Children, the current study documents the effects
on these children after their parents were arrested in worksite raids, raids on their homes, or operations by local
police officers. We researched impacts on children in the
days and weeks after parental arrests, in the intermediate
and long term while parents were detained or contested
their deportation, and in some cases, after parents were
deported.
We interviewed arrested parents or their spouses shortly
(2 to 5 months) after arrest, in the long term (9 to 13 months
after arrest), and sometimes twice, both shortly after arrest
and in the long term. We used semi-structured protocols
that included standardized assessments of child behavior,
parental mental health, family food sufficiency, housing
characteristics, and other conditions. We also interviewed
community respondents in each site, including public officials, teachers, social workers, attorneys, consular officials,
and staff at community organizations. Our study populations included immigrant families mostly from Mexico,
Guatemala, El Salvador, and Haiti. We recruited families
to reflect a range of circumstances and experiences.

Worksite Arrests and Other Forms
of Enforcement in Our Study Sites
Our site selection captured a range of community characteristics and enforcement circumstances. Four of our six
study sites experienced large-scale worksite raids by U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. One
site involved arrests in homes and other locations by ICE
Fugitive Operation Teams (FOTs), which seek immigrants
with outstanding deportation orders or who have committed immigration-related crimes. The sixth site included
arrests of immigrants in their homes and workplaces as well
as on the street by local police officers trained to enforce federal immigration laws under the 287(g) program—so
named for the section of U.S. immigration law that authorizes it.
Two of the worksite raid sites—Grand Island, Nebraska,
and New Bedford, Massachusetts—were included in our
earlier study, Paying the Price. For the current study we
conducted interviews with affected families and community
interviews more than a year after the raids. The other two
worksite raid sites that we studied—Van Nuys, California,
and Postville, Iowa—experienced raids in the first half of
2008. In these sites we interviewed families and conducted
community interviews twice—in 2008, a couple of months
vii

after the raids, and again in 2009 about a year later. The four
sites included between 100 and 400 arrests each, which
received considerable media attention and resulted in community-wide responses.
Our other two study sites involved smaller numbers of
arrests over long time spans, and these arrests received less
media attention and weaker community responses. We
visited Miami in December 2008, where we interviewed
Haitian families that had a parent arrested at home or in
another setting by ICE FOTs during the previous two years.
About 30,000 of the more than 500,000 immigrants on
ICE’s fugitive list are Haitian; many of this group applied
for asylum and were rejected, or overstayed a valid visa. Our
sixth site was Rogers-Springdale in Northwest Arkansas,
which we visited in May 2008, six months after the local
police signed 287(g) agreements with ICE to enforce
immigration laws. Police screened immigrants in the
county jails for their legal status and conducted a number
of operations in the community—including raids on
homes, roadblocks to check drivers’ licenses, traffic stops
for minor offenses, and a raid on a local Mexican restaurant chain. More than 400 immigrants were arrested in
this six-month period.

Findings
The children in the study experienced severe challenges,
including separations from parents and economic hardships
that likely contributed to adverse behavioral changes that
parents reported.

Family Separation
Parent-child separations pose serious risks to children’s
immediate safety, economic security, well-being, and longerterm development. Such separations were common in our
study, though for a majority of children at least one parent
was able to remain, either because they were not arrested or
because they were released under supervision. About half of
the families had parents released on the day of their arrest,
often with electronic monitoring devices (EMDs) affixed
to their ankles. In many cases parents were detained for an
extended period following their arrests, including nearly a
quarter where a parent was detained for more than a month
and a handful where separations lasted more than six
months, though our sample likely underrepresents these cases
because we could not interview parents in detention. The
viii

most common change in family structure that resulted from
parent separation following arrest was that two-parent families became single-parent families, although in a few cases
children stayed with other relatives or friends for an
extended period when either a single parent or both
parents were detained.
Between the time of the earlier worksite raids in Grand
Island and New Bedford and the 2008 Van Nuys and
Postville worksite raids, ICE issued humanitarian guidelines
for large-scale worksite raids, which mandated release of single parents and those with needy children. These guidelines
reduced the frequency of family separation, especially in
the Van Nuys raid. The application of ankle bracelets with
tracking devices allowed ICE to continue to monitor arrestees
without requiring detention. This clearly was a better outcome from the families’ point of view, though parents faced
some stigma and some other difficulties while wearing the
ankle bracelets. Yet, in Postville—where many parents were
also charged criminally for identity theft—and in the nonworksite arrests in Miami and Rogers-Springdale, children
faced prolonged separations from at least one parent in a
majority of cases.
In the long term, at least 20 families in our study experienced the deportation of a parent and were forced to
confront painful decisions about whether children would
leave the country with the deported parent or remain in the
United States with either the other parent or another relative. In eight of these families, some or all of the children
went with one or both parents to the parents’ countries of
origin, and in 12 cases, children remained in the United
States, separated from one of their parents. The whole family left to join the deported parent in some of these cases,
while in others the parents and siblings were split between
countries. Our time frame was not long enough to assess the
impacts on children who faced separations following deportation or, in most cases, to know the ultimate outcome
regarding deportations and longer-term separations. Finally,
in a few cases, parents returned illegally to the United States
to be reunited with their children and families. The return
journeys were rough, and one parent died the day after he
was reunited with his family.

Family Economic Hardship
Most families in our sample lost a working parent, because
they were detained, deported, or released but not allowed
to work. Following job loss, households experienced steep

declines in income and hardships such as housing instability
and food insufficiency. Many families experienced prolonged hardship in part due to extended efforts to contest
deportation that took months and often more than a year to
adjudicate.
Job and income loss. After the worksite raids, families
lost workers who almost always had full-time jobs, consistent employment histories, and earnings that made their
families generally self-sufficient. Families with workers at the
meatpacking plants in Grand Island and Postville averaged
$650 per week in income before the raids. Each of the families in Grand Island, New Bedford, and Postville lost all, or
nearly all, of its income in the first few months following the
raids, and the Postville families still had almost no income
more than nine months after the raid. It was difficult to find
new jobs in small communities like Postville, and families
relied on informal supports, private charity, and public benefits to survive. EMD bracelets represented an additional
barrier to work for families in Postville, Van Nuys, and
Miami due to the stigma. Across all six sites, average
incomes after the raids or other arrests were half or less
than what they had been before.
Housing instability. Lost incomes in our sample were
associated with housing instability. Many families started
out in crowded conditions, but conditions worsened when
families needed to move in with other relatives to control
costs. One in four families moved in with others to save on
housing costs. Of the eight families that had owned their
homes before the parental arrest, four lost their homes afterward. Across our study sites, many children wound up
moving often. Such instability can have adverse consequences for children, especially when coupled with other
hardships and added family stress.
Food hardship. Families in our study reported food
hardship at levels many times greater than those found in
nationally representative samples. Nearly three out of five
households reported difficulty paying for food “sometimes”
or “frequently” in the months following parental arrest.
Parents offered less variety of food to their children and cut
back on their own consumption so that their children
could eat. Nearly two out of three parents reduced the size
of their meals, over half ate less than before, and more than
a fifth reported having experienced hunger because they did
not have enough to eat. These food-related hardships persisted in our long-term sample, in some cases for more
than a year.

Child Behavior Changes
Widespread changes in child behavior. In the short term, six
months or less after a raid or other arrest, about two-thirds
of children experienced changes in eating and sleeping
habits. More than half of children in our study cried more
often and were more afraid, and more than a third were
more anxious, withdrawn, clingy, angry, or aggressive. A
majority of children experienced four or more of these
behavior changes. These behavioral changes subsided somewhat over time but were still widespread more than six
months after the raids or other arrests, with shares on most
of these indicators still above 40 percent. Younger children
experienced greater difficulties eating and sleeping, excessive crying, and clinging to parents, while aggressive and
withdrawn behavior was more common among the older
children.
Behavioral changes were more common following parentchild separation and following parental arrests in the home.
Children who were separated from detained parents were
more likely to experience behavioral changes in both the
short term and the long term. In the short term, about three
out of four of the children separated from parents experienced changes in eating habits, while these changes were
experienced by only half of the children who were not separated from their parents. About two-thirds of the children
separated from their parents began crying, and about half of
them exhibited fear. Of the children who were not separated
from parents, about half cried more than before and about a
third felt afraid. In the long term, children who did not see
their parents for a month or more exhibited more frequent
changes in sleeping habits, anger, and withdrawal compared
with children who saw their parents in the first month after
arrest.
The children in our sample who saw their parents
arrested in home raids had even greater changes in sleeping
and eating patterns, and much higher degrees of fear and
anxiety. Children whose parents were arrested at home
exhibited multiple behavioral changes more often than
children whose parents were arrested elsewhere.
Children’s experience in schools. Schools provided stability
and a safe haven for many of the children in our sample, helping them adjust to life after their parents’ arrests. As we found
in our previous study, Paying the Price, schools across all sites
worked with parents and community leaders to prevent children from going to empty homes. Despite efforts by school
officials to keep children in school, many children initially
ix

experienced disruptions in the short run, including missed
days of school. Some of the children’s grades slipped in the
short term. However, more often, parents and teachers told
positive stories about children’s long-run adjustments and the
school’s role in offering stability and structure for children.
Students appear to have benefited from school routines and the
support they received from teachers and school personnel—
including counseling for a significant number of students in
New Bedford and Postville. In several cases students who had
struggled at first recovered their academic performance or saw
improvements in the long term.

Community Responses
Aside from schools, significant responses to the raids and
other arrests were made by churches and faith-based organizations, community-based organizations (CBOs) and nonprofit service providers, lawyers, and, to a lesser extent,
public human services and child welfare agencies.
Humanitarian assistance. In the immediate aftermath of
the large worksite raids in three sites—Grand Island, New
Bedford, and Postville—communities mobilized assistance
for affected families quickly, developing what might be considered disaster-relief operations. Sources of support varied,
but in general these relief efforts were expensive, possibly
surpassing $1 million in Postville. A confluence of participants were usually involved, including churches, community
organizations, nonprofit service providers (e.g., United Way
agencies), state and local government agencies, employers,
and labor unions. These relief efforts were complicated
because of the families’ many needs (e.g., housing, utilities,
food, and other basic needs) and the need to coordinate
services across multiple providers, and because in many cases
these needs lasted a long time.
Unlike Paying the Price, our current study also focuses
on impacts and community responses in sites where immigrants were arrested in smaller-scale operations. Without a
well-publicized raid as a catalyst, there was no such mobilization in Rogers-Springdale and Miami, leaving families there
without an emergency response safety net. Family hardship
was just as high, if not higher, in these two sites, but the levels
of assistance to affected families were much lower.
Legal assistance. Among our study’s workplace raid sites,
legal assistance and efforts to contest deportation appear to
have been most effective in New Bedford and Van Nuys. In
these two sites many of those arrested have contested their
deportations, a significant number have been successful, and
x

many of their cases continue to be adjudicated. The Rapid
Response Network of Los Angeles assembled 45 attorneys to
help defend the Van Nuys arrestees from deportation. These
attorneys challenged the legality of the raid itself, leading to
the temporary dismissal of deportation cases against almost
half of all the arrestees. Following the New Bedford raid,
Greater Boston Legal Services and legal staff at Catholic
Social Services assembled a group of attorneys to represent
the arrested workers, and a local philanthropist contributed
to paying the bonds for many of the immigrants placed in
detention. More than 100 of the New Bedford arrestees
were still in the United States contesting their deportation
two years after the raid.
Fewer people were able to contest their deportation in
Postville, because most had also been charged criminally;
however, more than a dozen had received relief from deportation a year and a half after the raid. Legal assistance was
least successful in Grand Island, the earliest of our raid sites,
where more parents took voluntary departure and fewer
contested their deportation. It may be that over time, owing
to national and state-level organizing efforts, lawyers became
somewhat better equipped to assist immigrants caught up in
raids. It is also likely that assembling legal responses to
worksite raids proved more difficult in the smaller, more isolated communities of Postville and Grand Island than it did
in Los Angeles and New Bedford (which is near Boston and
Providence). It may also be that some legal remedies—such
as U-visas, which can be issued for victims of crime—
became more widely used. This was certainly the case in
Postville, where most of those who succeeded in contesting
their deportation received U-visas.
In our two nonworkplace raid sites, however, there was
no organized legal response. Also, legal remedies were much
less of an available option. Almost all of the Haitians
arrested in Miami were on a final deportation order list,
meaning that relief from deportation was very difficult.
Immigrants in Rogers-Springdale were in some cases
arrested for working illegally, but most were brought in on
traffic violations and other criminal charges. Once they were
charged criminally, obtaining immigration relief became
much more difficult.

Conclusion
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has
continued to promote a policy of strict enforcement in the

absence of progress on immigration reform legislation. The
President, the Secretary of Homeland Security, ICE’s leadership, and congressional leaders have all emphasized that
strict enforcement would be a pillar of any credibly
reformed system. Although comprehensive reform remains
as elusive as it has been over the past several years, the new
DHS leadership initiated some important smaller-scale
changes in immigration enforcement.
Ⅲ Humanitarian guidelines delineating terms for parental
release during large-scale worksite raids were expanded
to include smaller-scale raids (down to 25 arrests).
Ⅲ Large worksite raids have ended for now, with the last
small raid in Bellingham, Washington, in February
2009.
Ⅲ Worksite enforcement is focusing instead on electronic
verification of worker eligibility, audits of employers’
personnel records, and fines against employers.
Ⅲ The 287(g) program was revised, with stricter federal
oversight and a focus on arresting and detaining serious
criminals.
Ⅲ Some greater discretion has been exercised in the detention of FOT arrestees, with a large group released under
supervision recently in New Jersey.
In addition, the DHS is considering reforms to the
detention system, including releasing more arrestees with
supervision, detaining people in more humane conditions,
and allowing better communication with attorneys and
family members.
Overall, the number of arrests, detentions, and deportations of unauthorized immigrants has remained consistent at
the historically high levels seen since 2006. ICE’s FOTs
continue their operations, and the number of 287(g) programs has expanded slightly. ICE has reemphasized its commitment to deporting immigrants with criminal records and
has concentrated resources toward this aim, though what
amounts to a “serious criminal offense” has yet to be
defined.
Given that any overall abatement in the need for
enforcement is not likely and that in many cases arrested
unauthorized immigrants will have children, most of whom
are U.S. citizens from birth, the nation must act to protect
these children. Balancing enforcement imperatives against
the best interests of children is a challenge the country must
face squarely, whether or not the immigration system is
more comprehensively reformed.

Policy Recommendations
We make several recommendations to address the hardships
of children within the context of ongoing enforcement of
immigration laws. These include changes in U.S. immigration law, in immigration enforcement strategies, and in how
community and public agencies respond to the needs of
children affected by immigration enforcement.
Changes to current immigration laws.
1. Congress should modify immigration laws to take into
account the circumstances and interests of children, especially U.S. citizen children, during deportation proceedings. Arrested parents should be allowed to argue
hardship to U.S. citizen children before immigration
judges, even when they do not meet other conditions for
relief. Minor children who are U.S. citizens should be
allowed to petition for their parents to become legal permanent residents (through a court-appointed legal
guardian who can advocate for their interests).
Changes in immigration enforcement strategies.
2. ICE should maintain the de facto moratorium on
worksite raids and instead concentrate on electronic
verification, audits of employers, and other mechanisms
to enforce laws against hiring immigrants illegally.
3. ICE should develop alternatives to detention for parents
who represent neither a danger to the community nor a
flight risk. ICE should consider expanding use of supervised release, including ankle bracelets, to nonworksite
enforcement operations—as it appears ICE has done in
some FOT operations. As DHS and ICE review detention policies, they should prioritize keeping families together and outside of detention settings whenever possible.
4. ICE should allow family members greater access to
arrested immigrants during their processing and detention.
ICE should minimize the transfer of detainees to remote
locations and support children’s communication and
visitation with detained parents, as recommended by
recent reports from the DHS Office of Inspector General
and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
5. ICE should allow parents who have a potentially valid
claim the opportunity to work while contesting their
deportation, by issuing work permits early on and by
expediting U-visas for parents who are legitimate victims
of crimes. Allowing parents to work would substantially
reduce family economic hardship, the burden on
xi

faith-based and other community-based providers, and
use of public benefits for U.S. citizen children.
Changes in community responses and services to affected
children and families.
6. DHS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services (DHHS) should work together to develop
strategies to support state and local governments and
nonprofit organizations to ensure the well-being of children when their parents are deported. Such plans should
provide for education, health, and family stability.
7. The special role of schools and early childhood programs should be strengthened through policies that
ensure early alerts from ICE and local law enforcement.
Schools and early childhood providers should develop
plans to protect children immediately following raids or
other arrests to provide safe havens and responsive
learning environments. The U.S. Department of
Education and DHHS should work with ICE to offer
technical assistance or federal guidance on best ways to
ensure a positive learning environment for children in
the aftermath of enforcement activities and provide
resources for counseling children in schools.
8. Lawyers, community leaders, immigrant-serving organizations, faith-based organizations, and other trusted
community members and institutions should educate
parents about the best ways to respond when they are
detained and asked whether they have children. This
can be based on guidelines already developed by
national groups and those used in states with large
immigrant populations.

xii

9. State and local child welfare agencies, along with foundations, experts, and advocates, should consider appropriate
avenues to protect and advance the interests of children
whose parents are caught up in immigration enforcement.
The U.S. Children’s Bureau in the Administration of
Children and Families in DHHS should support work to
identify positive practices and provide funding for technical assistance if best practices are identified.
10. National, state, and local networks of deportation
defense lawyers should be established, perhaps through
the American Bar Association and the American
Immigration Lawyers Association. Such networks will
be hardest to develop, yet most essential, in smaller
cities and rural areas. Their services should be extended
to immigrants caught up in both worksite and nonworksite raids.
11. Both legal and humanitarian assistance should be coordinated by and offered through trusted community
institutions such as faith-based and immigrant-serving
organizations. Such organizations should be prepared to
continue assistance over the long term. We also recommend that government agencies work closely with these
organizations to plan service delivery to affected families, including benefits for eligible U.S. citizen children.
12. Nongovernmental institutions such as churches, CBOs,
foundations, and advocacy organizations, alongside
state and national governments, should consider strategies for developing and coordinating health, education,
and other essential services for citizen children who
cross back and forth between nations as a result of
parental deportation.

1. INTRODUCTION
mmigration persists as a national concern, engendering contentious debate, with most of the attention revolving around the
estimated 12 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States. Between 1990 and 2008 the number of unauthorized immigrants has risen from fewer than 5 million to nearly 12 million.1 Recent legislative attempts in Congress—in 2006
and in 2007—failed to attract consensus on how to reform the immigration system or what to do about unauthorized immigrants. Immigration reform has been controversial with strongly held and competing viewpoints on issues such as the rule of
law, the labor market demand for immigrants, their economic contributions, their fiscal costs and contributions, and how their
integration affects local communities and schools.

I

Largely absent from the discussion and nearly invisible
in the portraits of the illegal immigrant population have
been the millions of children living with unauthorized parents.2 In 2008, an estimated 5.5 million children (more
than 7 percent of all children living in the United States)
had unauthorized parents. Almost three-quarters of these
children were U.S.-born citizens.3 Like other U.S. children, these children grow up needing economic security, a
stable home environment, strong and supportive families,
and access to quality schools, health care, and social services. Their parents, even when they are unauthorized, work
hard to provide these necessities for their children. Like all
U.S. children, the nation invests in their future and relies
in turn on their families to provide the primary support for

1

Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn, 2009, A Portrait of Unauthorized
Immigrants in the United States, Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic
Center.
2 The parents and many other family members discussed in this
report were or are for the most part in the country illegally.
There has been controversy over whether they should be called
“illegal” or “undocumented.” They are most often both. We use
the term “unauthorized” in this report because it makes the
fewest assumptions about their status. As discussed in later chapters, many have entered and live and work here illegally. Some
are immigrants who have invalid documents, and some are
found after adjudication to have legitimate claims for legal residence or may be pursuing such claims.
3 An estimated 4 million children with unauthorized parents were
U.S.-born citizens. Passel and Cohn, 2009, p. 7.

raising them and developing their potential, and thereby
the nation’s. Yet unlike other U.S. children, the children
of the unauthorized live under constant threat that their
parents might be arrested and deported, leaving them vulnerable to family separation, instability, economic hardship, dramatic changes in their life courses, and potentially
severe psychological and behavioral impacts. This report
focuses on children who have experienced the arrest of at
least one of their parents in a worksite raid or other immigration enforcement action.

Immigration Enforcement
Absent consensus on immigration reform, the unauthorized
immigrant population in the United States and their families have been subject to increasingly strict enforcement.
Hundreds of thousands of children have experienced the
arrests of their parents in recent years; a report by the
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated
that over 100,000 parents with U.S. citizen children were
deported over the past 10 years—most likely a significant
underestimate since parents often do not divulge the presence of children when they are arrested.4

4 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2009, Removals Involving
Illegal Alien Parents of United States Citizen Children, OIG-09-15,
Washington, DC: DHS, Office of Inspector General.

1

Our report describes the experiences of nearly 200 of
these children in six sites where recent immigration enforcement activities have taken place. These enforcement activities
include four large-scale worksite raids—each involving more
than 100 arrests—as well as scattered, smaller-scale arrests of
immigrants in their homes, on the street, and in other locations in two other sites.
The enforcement activities in our six study sites took
place between December 2006 and May 2008, a period of
heightened immigration enforcement. From federal fiscal
years (FY) 2005 to 2009 the budget for U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency within DHS
responsible for interior enforcement, grew from $3.6 to
$5.9 billion and its personnel rose from 15,000 to 19,000.
Of the total budget of about $6 billion in FY 2010,
$2.5 billion is dedicated to “detention and removal
operations”—including most of the activities we describe
in this report.5
The number of immigrants in ICE detention on an
average day rose by 45 percent from about 21,000 in FY
2005 to about 31,000 in FY 2008.6 The total number of
unauthorized immigrants deported annually increased
from 206,000 in FY 2005 to 357,000 in FY 2008.7
Although most of the immigrants detained and deported
are apprehended through border enforcement efforts in
areas near the Southwestern border, those arrested by ICE
in the interior of the country through raids of worksites,
homes, and other locations number in the tens of thousands each year.8
During our study period (2006–08), ICE increased its
immigration enforcement activities, and in this report we

5

ICE, 2009, “ICE Fiscal Year 2010 Enacted Budget,” Fact Sheet,
November 5, http://www.ice.gov/doclib/pi/news/factsheets/
2010budgetfactsheet.doc.
6 ICE, 2008, “Detention Management,” Fact Sheet, November 18,
http://www.ice.gov/pi/news/factsheets/index.htm. A recent
report estimates that 379,000 immigrants in 2008 (and a similar
number in 2009) passed through ICE detention or were supervised under threat of deportation. Dora Schriro, 2009,
Immigration Detention Overview and Recommendations,
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Homeland Security,
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, October 6.
7 ICE, 2009, ICE Fiscal Year 2008 Annual Report, http://www.ice.
gov/pi/reports/annual_report/index.htm.
8 Kristen McCabe and Jeanne Batalova, 2009, “Immigration
Enforcement in the United States,” Washington, DC: Migration
Policy Institute; Schriro, 2009, p. 12.
2

focus on three forms of enforcement:9 worksite raids, arrests
by fugitive operations teams (FOTs) in homes and other
locations, and arrests by state and local police officers
through the 287(g) program.
Worksite enforcement. In FY 2005, a total of about
1,300 unauthorized immigrants were arrested at worksites; by FY 2008 this total had increased to 6,300.10
Because of the large scale of these operations—which
have at times involved a few hundred arrests—they
have attracted widespread media attention. Despite the
large numbers of people arrested in a single location,
worksite raids have led to fewer arrests of unauthorized
immigrants than other forms of enforcement activities
we studied.
Fugitive operations teams. In one site, we studied
arrests that had been made by FOTs, which have
been active in arresting immigrants in homes and other
locations. “Fugitives” are defined as immigrants who
have “failed to leave the United States based upon a
final order of removal, deportation, or exclusion; or
who have failed to report to ICE after receiving
notice to do so.”11 Between FY 2003 and FY 2008,
9

These are not all of the enforcement activities under ICE’s
responsibility, and our report is not a review of all of ICE’s
enforcement activities. We did not study two other major programs that identify unauthorized immigrants when they come into
contact with state and local law enforcement authorities. The first
of these—the Criminal Alien Program—places ICE officers in state
and local jails, where they identify unauthorized immigrants and
put them in deportation proceedings (see ICE, 2008, “Criminal
Alien Program,” Fact Sheet, November 19, http://www.ice.gov/pi/
news/factsheets/criminal_alien_program.htm). This program has
resulted in a large number of referrals and deportations (over
200,000 in FY 2008), but it nets only criminals who are already
serving time in state and local jails—and so does not result in
any arrests. The second—Secure Communities—is a program
just created in 2008 that allows state and local officers to screen
immigrants for legal status via FBI and DHS databases, using
their fingerprints; ICE plans to extend this program to all state
and local jails in the coming years (see ICE, 2009, “Secure
Communities,” Fact Sheet, September 1, http://www.ice.gov/
doclib/pi/news/factsheets/secure_communities.pdf).
10
DHS, 2009, “Worksite Enforcement Overview,” Fact Sheet,
April 30, http://www.ice.gov/pi/news/factsheets/index.htm.
11 ICE, 2009, “ICE Fugitive Operations Program,” Fact Sheet,
August 19, http://www.ice.gov/pi/news/factsheets/NFOP_FS.htm.
Some fugitives are criminals who have orders of removal; however,
the majority of those who have been arrested in recent years are
people who have a deportation order because they missed a deportation hearing or failed to leave after being ordered deported.

the number of FOT arrests nationally increased dramatically from just 1,900 to over 34,000—and there
were a total of nearly 100,000 arrests during this sixyear period.12
Arrests by state and local police with 287(g) agreements. One of the study sites was a setting for arrests
made by local law enforcement officers through the
287(g) agreements—so named for the section of immigration law that allows state and local law enforcement
officers to become trained and then work under ICE
supervision to enforce immigration laws.13 In 1996, as
part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant
Responsibility Act (IIRIRA),14 Congress empowered
ICE to delegate authority to make immigration arrests
to state and local law enforcement agencies (as long
as the agencies entered into formal agreements). This
287(g) program experienced rapid growth during our
study period from just eight agreements in 2006 to
66 by 2009. As of November 2009, 1,075 officers
had been trained and about 130,000 potentially
deportable immigrants had been identified, mostly
through screening of inmates in state and local jails.15
Immigration enforcement policies also changed during
the period of our research and have continued to change
since. For changes that occurred during our research—such
as a new humanitarian policy to release parents of young
children more expeditiously pending adjudication when
they are picked up during worksite raids, or to make greater
use of electronic monitoring devices (EMDs) to track
released arrestees—we have sought to provide evidence
about their implementation and effects.
In addition, the report provides information to inform
ongoing and future policy reviews. Since we were in the
field in 2008 and early 2009, the new Obama administration has reviewed a number of enforcement policies and

12

Margot Mendelson, Shayna Strom, and Michael Wishnie, 2009,
“Collateral Damage: An Examination of ICE’s Fugitive Operations
Program,” Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.
13 Anita Khashu, 2009, The Role of Local Police: Striking a Balance
between Immigration Enforcement and Civil Liberties, Washington,
DC: Police Foundation.
14 Public Law 104-208.
15 ICE, 2009, “Delegation of Immigration Authority Section 287(g)
Immigration and Nationality Act,” Fact Sheet, November 13,
http://www.ice.gov/pi/news/factsheets/section287_g.htm.

made some significant changes in the enforcement of
immigration laws. Large-scale worksite raids have all but
ended, with the last major raid in February 2009 in
Bellingham, Washington. Instead, the administration has
focused on electronic verification of workers’ legal status,
increased audits of employer records and pressure on
employers to fire unauthorized workers, and fines against
employers who hire them. However, the administration
has continued FOTs and other operations to pursue immigrants who have committed crimes or who have outstanding
deportation orders.

Goals of the Study
In 2007, we published Paying the Price: The Impact of
Immigration Raids on America’s Children, a report focusing
on the short-term impacts of three large-scale worksite raids
on immigrant families, communities, and schools, along
with public and community response efforts that took place
within six months after the raids.16 Like that initial
exploratory work, our current study relies primarily on
structured interviews with community respondents and
families with children that had at least one parent arrested,
detained, or deported.
We have extended our previous work by capturing
long-term raid impacts and community responses, monitoring changes in worksite raid implementation over time,
studying multiple types of enforcement activities beyond
worksite raids, representing the diversity of populations and
communities affected by the raids, documenting more thoroughly family and child well-being after enforcement
actions, and understanding how enforcement and community contexts affect community responses.

Capturing Long-Term Consequences
and Community Responses
We returned to two of the original worksite raid sites
(Grand Island and New Bedford) for follow-up interviews
more than one year after the raids. We visited two new
(2008) worksite raid sites (Van Nuys and Postville), twice—
within a couple of months after the raids and 10 months to
16 Randy Capps, Rosa Maria Castañeda, Ajay Chaudry, and Robert
Santos, 2007, Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on
America’s Children, Washington, DC: National Council of La Raza.

3

one year later. In all four sites we interviewed a subset of
affected families as well as leaders in the community twice.

Monitoring Changes in Worksite Raid
Implementation over Time
There has been considerable evolution in the way that
worksite raids are carried out. During the earlier raids
(Grand Island and New Bedford), ICE deported many
people quickly or detained them for a period of time,
though a few parents were released on their own recognizance or with bonds. In the more recent raids (Van Nuys
and Postville), a significant number of parents were released
almost immediately with EMDs on their ankles. Our study
samples included many parents with EMDs on their ankles
at these two sites. In Postville, a majority of the arrested
immigrants were convicted of misuse of Social Security
Numbers (SSNs) and held for five months.

Studying Multiple Types of Enforcement Activities
beyond Worksite Raids
Two study sites—Miami and Northwest Arkansas—were
included to capture other types of enforcement activities. In
Miami, the study respondents or their spouses or partners
were arrested in their homes through FOT operations or at
immigration hearings or appointments. The Miami study
population was comprised of Haitian immigrants, most of
whom were on ICE’s list for deportation because their asylum claims had been rejected or they had overstayed their
visa status. In Northwest Arkansas, local law enforcement
agencies had entered into 287(g) agreements with ICE to
enforce immigration laws and had arrested immigrants at
worksites, during traffic stops, on the street, and in one
case, just outside an elementary school. Because both of
these types of enforcement activities result in arrests spread
over a long period of time, rather than a massive number
of arrests all at once, they often attract less attention and
receive less of a community response than more dramatic
worksite raids.

Representing the Diversity of Populations
and Communities Affected by the Raids
The vast majority (almost 90 percent) of unauthorized
immigrants arrested and detained by ICE and local law
4

enforcement agencies are from Mexico and Central
America.17 We also sought to include at least one nonLatino population and chose Haitians in Miami—a large
unauthorized population that has been affected by thousands of arrests and deportations in recent years. To obtain
diversity of community size, we included two of the nation’s
largest metropolitan areas (Miami and Van Nuys—which is
part of Los Angeles); two medium-sized metropolitan areas
(New Bedford and Rogers-Springdale); one small city
(Grand Island); and Postville—a small town with an official
population of just over 2,000 people. Our sites are also
regionally diverse: one is in the Northeast, two in the
Midwest, two in the Southeast, and one on the West Coast.

Documenting More Thoroughly Family
and Child Well-Being after Enforcement Actions
In our previous study, Paying the Price, we documented
short-term family separations, economic hardship, and the
need for social assistance following three large-scale worksite raids. The current study built on this previous work by
documenting specific impacts on families and children.
We still primarily relied on one-on-one conversations with
arrested parents or their spouses, partners, or other relatives. The current study included the domains in the first
study as well as others. The primary domains included
family separation, economic hardship, changes in children’s behavior, schooling interruptions, and parents’
mental health. Where possible we added more structured
questions to enhance data analysis across sites and other
dimensions of our sample.

Understanding How Enforcement and Community
Contexts Affect Community Responses
In our initial exploratory study we found significant variation in the ways that organizations—including state and
local government agencies, nonprofit human services
providers, legal assistance groups, schools, and communitybased organizations (CBOs)—responded to enforcement
actions. In the current study, we also analyzed how the
responses varied by community context: for instance, large
cities versus rural areas and areas with more positive or negative attitudes toward immigration. We also looked at how
17

Schriro, 2009, p. 6.

community responses differed following worksite raids versus FOT home raids and local policing operations.

Research Questions
To achieve our research goals, the study and report focus on
the following central questions:
1. What are the effects of enforcement actions on parentchild separation? How do these differ in the short,
intermediate, and longer terms?
Ⅲ In the short term—the days and weeks following
arrest,
Ⅲ How many parents are released, detained, or
deported?
Ⅲ How long do parent-child separations last, and
what are the consequences for children?
Ⅲ In the intermediate and longer terms,
Ⅲ How many families remain in the community where
they were arrested? In another U.S. community?
Ⅲ How many parents leave the country, either voluntarily or by deportation?
Ⅲ When parents leave the community or the country,
do they take their children with them?
2. What are some of the specific effects of enforcement
actions on children’s well-being?
Ⅲ How does family income change?
Ⅲ What types of material hardship do families face?
How are their housing stability, food sufficiency,
and other material conditions affected?
Ⅲ How do children respond to the stresses? Are there
noticeable changes in children’s behavior at home
or in school?
3. What types of services and social support did immigrant
families receive in the immediate and longer-term
aftermath of parental arrests?
Ⅲ How were community (public and private) services
delivered, and what kinds of response models were
developed?
Ⅲ What lessons can be learned from the successes
and challenges of providing community and public
services intended to benefit children?

Organization of the Report
The remainder of this introduction outlines the characteristics
of the six study sites, provides an overview of the study meth-

ods, describes the sample of families with children that we
interviewed, and discusses the study’s limitations. The second
chapter of the report discusses the different enforcement operations in the study sites. This chapter also addresses the effects
of enforcement activities on parent-child separations when a
parent is arrested, detained, or deported. Chapter 3 discusses
other enforcement impacts on families, including changes in
family income, housing instability, and food hardship. This
chapter also describes the assistance that families received to
cope with some of these difficulties. Chapter 4 describes in
detail the consequences for children in terms of behavioral
changes at home and at school. Chapter 5 focuses on community response efforts, including both legal efforts to contest
deportation of parents and humanitarian assistance to families
and children over the short, intermediate, and longer term.
The final chapter discusses the study’s main findings and conclusions, describes recent policy changes, and makes recommendations for developing effective and humane immigration
enforcement policies.

Study Sites
ICE conducted large-scale single-day raids on manufacturing plants in four of our study sites: Grand Island, New
Bedford, Van Nuys, and Postville. The other two sites—
Miami and Rogers-Springdale—were sites where other
enforcement actions took place over extended periods
(table 1.1). In Miami, FOTs, along with local police and
Border Patrol agents, arrested immigrants at their homes;
other immigrants were arrested during their immigration
appointments and hearings with immigration officers. In
Rogers-Springdale, the local police entered into a 287(g)
agreement with ICE to enforce immigration laws, conducted joint worksite raids with ICE, and arrested immigrants during routine policing operations.

Grand Island, Nebraska
Grand Island is a small city of about 45,000 people located
100 miles west of Omaha, Nebraska, and just off of Interstate 80, one of the nation’s main East-West highways.
More than 10 percent of the city’s population is foreign
born, and Latino immigrants are dispersed across the city.
Mexico is the largest country of origin among Latino immigrants, but there are many recent arrivals from Guatemala,
including indigenous Maya K’iche who speak neither
5

TABLE 1.1. Characteristics of the Six Study Sites
Grand Island,
Nebraska

New Bedford,
Massachusetts

Van Nuys,
California

Postville,
Iowa

Miami,
Florida

Rogers-Springdale,
Arkansas

Region
Metro area
Total populationa
Foreign-born population
Primary origins of sample

Midwest
Rural
45,000
6,000
Guatemala,
Mexico

West
Los Angeles, CA
3.8 millionb
1.5 millionb
Mexico,
El Salvador

Midwest
Rural
2,300
750
Guatemala,
Mexico

South
Miami, FL
352,000
206,000
Haiti

South
Fayetteville, AR
47,000/64,000c
9,000/13,000c
Mexico

Location of raid/arrests

Worksite

Northeast
Providence, RI
94,000
20,000
Guatemala,
Honduras, El
Salvador
Worksite

Worksite

Worksite

Date of raid or arrests
Date(s) of our visit(s)

December 2006
June 2007,
June 2008

March 2007
May 2007,
May 2008

February 2008
April 2008, May
2009

May 2008
July 2008, March
2009

Home, at appointments
Ongoing
December 2008

Local policing operations, at
appointments
Ongoing, starting in fall 2007
May 2008

a. Population from American Community Survey, 2005–2007 3-year average, for all sites except Postville. 2000 Census population for Postville.
b. Total and foreign-born populations for Los Angeles City.
c. Total and foreign-born populations for Rogers and Springdale, respectively.

English nor Spanish well. The surrounding area is agricultural and in town there are several manufacturing plants
including the meatpacking plant, employing about 3,000.
This plant was raided in December 2006 as part of a singleday raid on six Swift and Company plants simultaneously,
netting over 1,297 arrests—the largest worksite raid conducted by ICE. Two hundred seventy-three unauthorized
workers were arrested at the Grand Island plant. Before
the raid, workers at the plant were unionized and earned
$10–$15 hourly for full-time work, and many enjoyed significant overtime pay. Swift and Company was bought out
by a Brazilian company in summer 2007 and the plant has
remained in operation.

New Bedford, Massachusetts
New Bedford is near the Providence and Boston metropolitan areas and has a population of almost 100,000, of whom
just over 20 percent are immigrants. Located on the New
England coast between Rhode Island and Cape Cod, the
city is a seaport with an old and declining manufacturing
base. Portuguese, Brazilian, and Cape Verdean immigrants form the nucleus of the long-term immigrant community, yet there are many recent arrivals from Central
America—including the Hondurans, Salvadorans, and
Guatemalans (mostly Maya K’iche as in Grand Island) who
worked at the Michael Bianco sewing plant that made backpacks for the U.S. military. That plant was raided in March
6

2007 following investigations of alleged worker abuses, and
361 immigrants were arrested. Most of those arrested held
sewing jobs that generally paid $7–$9 per hour, which was
low relative to the cost of living in the area. The plant initially closed soon after the raid and was later sold to Eagle
Industries of Missouri, which started new sewing operations
at the factory.

Van Nuys, California
Van Nuys is a suburban area within the City of Los Angeles,
located in the San Fernando Valley, just northwest over the
hills from downtown and Hollywood. Los Angeles is the
second-largest city in the United States, with a 2005–2007
population of 3.8 million, 40 percent of whom are foreign
born. Los Angeles has immigrants from all over the world,
but more than half come from Mexico or Central America—
600,000 from Mexico alone.18 Van Nuys is a working-class
community that includes several major manufacturing
plants, including the Micro Solutions Enterprises plant that
was raided by ICE in February 2008. The raid was based on
a warrant for eight employees suspected of holding falsified
documents. The vast majority of the 138 arrestees were
immigrants from Mexico or El Salvador. Micro Solutions
makes supplies for computer printers and is still in business.
18

American Community Survey, 2005–2007 three-year average,
American Factfinder, http://factfinder.census.gov.

Postville, Iowa
Postville is a small town in rural northeast Iowa, located almost
200 miles northeast of the state capital of Des Moines and
nearly 200 miles south of Minneapolis. According to the 2000
Census, Postville had a population of just 2,300 (about a
third of whom were immigrants), making it by far our smallest
study site. However, unofficially there were more than 1,000
Latino immigrants in Postville, mostly workers at the town’s
largest employer: the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant.
Agriprocessors reportedly employed over 1,000 people—half
the town’s official population—just before it was raided in
April 2008. The majority of the 389 arrested immigrants were
Guatemalans, while others were from Mexico and Russia.
Postville also had a large orthodox Jewish population that
included plant managers and other employees.
Agriprocessors was investigated before and after the
raid for a range of violations including fraudulent business
transactions, underage hiring, worker physical and sexual
abuse, withholding of pay, and environmental infractions.
Agriprocessor’s vice president and senior manager was convicted on 72 counts of fraud in November 2009 and faces
significant potential jail time. The company, which also
operated a kosher plant in Nebraska, filed for bankruptcy in
November 2008 and closed for a period of weeks. In fall
2009 a Canadian company bought the plant and kosher
meatpacking operations continue, but at about a third of the
capacity before the raid. Postville has been devastated by the
plant’s bankruptcy and near closure, and the surrounding,
mostly agricultural, area has few other employment or economic development options.

Miami
Miami is the other major city in our study, with a 2005–2007
population of 350,000—over half of whom are immigrants.
The greater Miami area is much larger, with a population of
over 5 million—an estimated 200,000 of whom are of
Haitian origin.19

19 The statistics about the Haitian population and Little Haiti presented here are taken from Ana Cruz-Taura and Jessica LeVeen
Farr, 2008, “Miami, Florida: The Little Haiti Neighborhood,”
pp. 47–56 in The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty in
America: Case Studies from Communities across the U.S., edited by
David Erickson, Carolina Reid, Lisa Nelson, Anne O’Shaughnessy,
and Alan Berube, Washington, DC: The Federal Reserve System
and The Brookings Institution.

Our study focused on Little Haiti, a poor community
in Miami which has been a major settlement area for
Haitian immigrants since 1980. Haitians in Miami-Dade
County had a poverty rate of 30 percent, and the overall
population of Little Haiti had a poverty rate of 44 percent
in 2000. Many Haitians are employed in tourism and
related industries, which are often seasonal, part-time, and
low paying. Retail and food industry jobs, which are also
low paying, are also common among Haitians in Miami.
Although both English and Spanish are commonly spoken
across Miami, most Haitians speak a Creole dialect of
French, for which interpretation and translation are often
difficult to obtain.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,
has had a significant amount of political unrest and violence, and was struck by four hurricanes in 2008. However,
unlike some Latin American and Caribbean nations, its
nationals are not generally eligible for asylum or temporary
protected status (TPS) due to political upheaval or natural
disasters. As a consequence, there are a large number of
Haitians living in Miami who are unauthorized and subject
to arrest and deportation. Most of our study participants
lived in the Little Haiti section of Miami, although a few
lived farther north in the Miami metropolitan area. Little
Haiti and other communities in Miami have been subject to
a wave of sweeps by FOTs and other enforcement activities
since 2005, which appear to have begun to decline very
recently.

Rogers-Springdale, Arkansas
Rogers and Springdale are neighboring cities in the Fayetteville
metropolitan area, located in the northwest corner of
Arkansas, adjoining the states of Oklahoma and Missouri.
The metropolitan area has a 2005–2007 population of just
over 400,000, with about 10 percent immigrants—half of
whom are from Mexico. Rogers has a population of about
50,000 and Springdale, about 60,000. Rogers is located near
the corporate headquarters of Wal-Mart, and Springdale is
home to Tyson chicken processing. Employment growth in
manufacturing (mostly food processing) and construction
spurred rapid immigration to the area during the 1990s and
since 2000.
In the fall of 2007, Rogers and Springdale, along with
the surrounding counties of Benton and Washington, signed
agreements with ICE that allowed local police officers to be
7

trained to enforce immigration laws. After about one month
of training, 19 officers from the four jurisdictions (Rogers,
Springdale, and the two surrounding counties) returned and
began checking the legal status of arrestees in the county
jails, during traffic stops and other routine policing operations, and in small worksite raids. Most of the several hundred arrested immigrants were from Mexico or other Latin
American countries.

Study Methods
The central goal of the current study is to assess changes in
children’s well-being over time in the aftermath of immigration enforcement activities, within the context of each
community. This goal guided the development of our
research protocols.

Research Protocols
We worked with an advisory committee (table 1.2) of ten
experts from the fields of immigration law, child development, child psychiatry, education, sociology, and demography to design the study approach and protocols for data
collection. Board members and staff from the foundations

TABLE 1.2. Study Advisory Committee

8

Vincent Eng
Deputy Director
Asian American Justice Center
Washington, D.C.

Krista Perreira, PhD
Professor of Public Policy
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Donald J. Hernandez, PhD
Professor of Sociology
Hunter College and the Graduate
Center (CUNY)
New York, New York

Andres J. Pumariega, MD
Chair, Department of Psychiatry
The Reading Hospital and Medical Center
Reading, Pennsylvania

Bill Ong Hing, JD
Professor of Law and Asian American Studies
University of California, Davis, School of Law
Davis, California

Nestor Rodriguez, PhD
Professor, Department of Sociology
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas

Alan Jenkins, JD, MA
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Opportunity Agenda
New York, New York

Selcuk R. Sirin, PhD
Assistant Professor of Applied Psychology
New York University
New York, New York

Kathleen A. Moccio, JD
Consulting Attorney to Dorsey & Whitney LLP
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Carola Suárez-Orozco, PhD
Professor of Applied Psychology
New York University
New York, New York

supporting our work also provided input on approach and
protocol development for our research.
We developed two protocols—one for community
respondents and the other for interviews with arrestees or
their spouses/partners:
Ⅲ Community interview protocol. The community interviews were guided by semi-structured protocols, which
allowed for comparison across interviews within sites as
well as across sites, but also encouraged open-ended
responses. Community interviews centered on questions about the local economy and social characteristics
of immigrant communities, as well as the conditions of
immigrant families before the raids, experiences of families during the raids, and their legal disposition. We
explored faith-based, nonprofit, community-based, and
public response efforts in detail, as we did in the 2007
Paying the Price study.
Ⅲ Parent interview protocol. The parent protocol included
the characteristics of the family before parental arrest;
the arrest itself, detention, supervised release, and
deportation afterward; family economic hardship before
and after the arrest; parental mental health; children’s
behavior and school performance; informal support
offered by family and community members; and use
of public social services. The protocol was structured
around key indicators of child and family well-being
but was also flexible enough to allow for conversation
to flow from different starting points. It was important
for parents feel comfortable telling their stories, and
a flexible interviewing approach yielded valuable
information.
In all sites we attempted to obtain data from the local
schools on children’s attendance, behavior, and academic
performance before and after the raids. However, we were
only successful in obtaining such academic records from one
school district—Postville, Iowa—and thus, we make only
limited use of these data in this report.
Confidentiality of responses. We ensured the confidentiality of all the information shared with us by both family
and community respondents. Parent interviews were
audiotaped and fully transcribed in Spanish, except for
interviews in Miami, which were conducted in Creole
and summarized in English. The resulting recordings,
transcriptions, and summaries in the study’s database
included only unique identifiers, not names or other

identifying information on the families. All material from
the family interviews was stored on encrypted computers.
Targeted transcripts of our interviews with community
respondents did not include identifying information, and all
“off the record” comments were omitted from this report.
We screened all material in this report to make sure that
details cannot identify any respondents. Our data collection,
storage, analysis, and reporting procedures were approved
by the Urban Institute’s institutional review board.
Contacting and interviewing respondents. Following
the successful methodology used in our 2007 study, we
communicated with national, state, and local organizations
and contacted local leaders from community organizing
groups, CBOs, churches and other faith-based organizations
(FBOs), and service providers. We then identified and
interviewed the following groups of community
respondents:
Ⅲ employers and union locals;
Ⅲ state and local elected officials, board members, and
service providers;
Ⅲ law enforcement officials;
Ⅲ nonprofit service providers;
Ⅲ churches and other FBOs;
Ⅲ teachers, administrators, other staff at schools, and
child care providers;
Ⅲ grassroots organizations and local community leaders;
Ⅲ health care and mental health providers;
Ⅲ immigration lawyers; and
Ⅲ consular officials for countries with nationals arrested in
immigration enforcement activities.
Through CBOs, FBOs, and other local contacts we were
able to obtain contact information for a number of families
in each site. In the worksite raid sites, we generally worked
through one or two local CBOs or FBOs—usually the groups
that organized and provided legal or humanitarian services
to arrested immigrants and their families. However, because
arrests were scattered over long time periods and across larger
geographic areas, recruiting families in Miami and RogersSpringdale required collaboration with more local contacts to
help identify and locate respondents.
Two Urban Institute bilingual/bicultural (Spanish/
English) researchers worked with local contacts to recruit
and interview the sample and interviewed the family respondents in all sites except Miami. We hired a professionally
trained Haitian Creole interpreter in Miami, the only site

where Spanish was not spoken by the respondents. All interviews were conducted where the family felt most comfortable. These locations included respondents’ homes,
churches, and community centers.

Study Sample
Our sampling methodology involved subjective sampling of
sites and respondents within sites. As outlined in the earlier
explanation of the goals of the study, we chose our sites to
capture the diversity of enforcement activity and its impacts
on children by selecting those that
Ⅲ spanned a range of enforcement activities (e.g., worksite
raids, home raids, 287(g) sites),
Ⅲ included immigrants from a range of home countries
and regions (e.g., Mexico, Central America, Haiti),
Ⅲ included a diversity of community environments and
responses, and
Ⅲ allowed for a longitudinal impact investigation.
To the extent possible we aimed to interview a diverse
group of families to capture the range of experiences that
they and their children encountered. Specifically, we aimed
for a sample of families that included
Ⅲ
Ⅲ
Ⅲ
Ⅲ

children ranging from infants to teenagers,
both U.S. native and foreign-born children,
families with different countries of origin, and
parents who were detained for various lengths of time.

We asked the groups that helped us recruit families to
identify as diverse a sample as possible using these criteria.
In each site we were able to obtain a variety of children by
age and citizenship. However, since the conditions of arrests
in each site strongly influenced the family structure and
length of separation for families we interviewed, we have
more diversity across than within sites on these criteria.
Our study includes a final sample of 87 respondents
across six sites (table 1.3). The 87 respondents were in
85 families and 83 households. About half our respondents in Grand Island and New Bedford were also interviewed in 2007 for our previous study. We interviewed
the largest numbers of families in Van Nuys and Postville
because our central contacts there were in communication
with many families right after the raids and because we
wanted to develop a broad base for follow-up interviews
a year later.
9

TABLE 1.3. Study Respondents and Household Characteristics by Site

Site

Children

Respondents

Householdsa

Families or
couplesb

55
48
27
27
19
14
190

18
28
12
10
9
10
87

18
26
12
8
9
10
83

18
27
12
9
9
10
85

Postville, IA
Van Nuys, CA
Grand Island, NE
Rogers-Springdale, AR
Miami, FL
New Bedford, MA
Total

Average children
under 18 in U.S.
per familyc

Interviews
(2008)d

Interviews
(2009)

3.1
1.8
2.3
3.0
2.1
1.4
2.2

17
26
9
8
10
10
80

11
12
0
0
0
0
23

Source: Urban Institute surveys of families in study sites.
a. Reflects two cases where respondents moved in together after parental arrest and two other cases where both the mother and the father were interviewed. There were 83 separate
households before arrest.
b. Data were collected on four families in the two households where families moved in together, yielding two more families than households in the sample.
c. Children in the primary care of respondent, respondent’s partner (or children’s parent), or respondent’s family member at time of interview. The total does not include (1) offspring
age 18 years or older living in the household or (2) children who were living in their parents’ country of origin at the time of the interview.
d. In most 2008 interviews, respondents were interviewed individually. In two cases, partners were interviewed together. In Grand Island, four unrelated respondents were interviewed
together.

In 2009, we interviewed 23 respondents (12 in Van
Nuys and 11 in Postville) and collected data on 55 children during a second round of interviews. We did not
reinterview respondents in either Miami or RogersSpringdale because their arrests were more dispersed over
time and across locations than the worksite raids in the
other sites.
We collected data on nativity and age for 187 children, two-thirds of whom (124 children) were U.S.born citizens. In the overall sample, all children under
2 years old, and nearly all (34 out of 38) children
age 3 to 5 were U.S. born. Almost half of children age 6
to 11 and a third of those ages 12 to 17 were born in the
U.S. (table 1.4).

TABLE 1.4. Characteristics of Children in Study Sample
All children

U.S.-born children

Gender
Child age
0 to 2
3 to 5
6 to 11
12 to 17
Total, all
age groups

Male

Female

Number

Percent
of total

Number

Percent of
age group

23
21
28
18
90

23
17
36
21
97

46
38
64
39
187a

25%
20%
34%
21%
100%

46
34
31
13
124

100%
89%
48%
33%
66%

Source: Urban Institute surveys of families in study sites.
a. Does not include 3 children (out of 190) whose parent did not provide age or nativity.

10

Our study sample was drawn from Mexican and
Central American immigrants in five of the six sites and
from Haitian immigrants in Miami. Mexican immigrants
were majorities of our Van Nuys and Rogers-Springdale
samples. Approximately half of the respondents in Postville
and Grand Island were from Guatemala and half were from
Mexico. Nearly all New Bedford respondents were born in
Central America, mainly in El Salvador and Guatemala.
Most of the families in our sample included long-term
U.S. immigrants. More than a third (37 percent) had been
in the country 10 years or longer, another third (36 percent)
between 5 and 10 years, and less than a third (27 percent)
for fewer than five years. There was substantial variation by
site, with respondents in Arkansas and Grand Island averaging the longest U.S. tenure of 10 and 13 years, respectively,
while respondents in Miami, Postville, Van Nuys, and New
Bedford averaged only six to eight years. A few respondents
in Arkansas, Grand Island, and Van Nuys had lived in the
U.S. for nearly 20 years.

Study Limitations
The primary limitation of the study lies in the recruitment
of parent respondents. For this qualitative research study
we worked through local intermediaries to screen and
recruit respondents. As with most qualitative research
studies, there are limitations that accompany our recruitment and sampling processes:

Ⅲ Respondents were mostly recruited through FBOs and
CBOs, so they may have been more connected to these
institutions and more likely than other families to have
received services.
Ⅲ Arrestees who had already left the country with their
families were not included, although in some cases we
did interview families where one parent had been
deported and another remained behind. This potential
source of bias is more pronounced in our follow-up
interviews, when some of the families we interviewed in
the first round may have since left the country, and so
are not included in second-round data.
Ⅲ Arrestees who were in detention at the time of our site
visits were also not included, unless a spouse or other
family member was available to talk to us. As a result,
we also somewhat underrepresent families with parents
in long-term detention.
Ⅲ Respondents who were more difficult to locate because
they avoided seeking assistance, went into hiding,
moved multiple times, or did not have telephones were
more likely to be excluded from or underrepresented in
the sample—and more so in the follow-up sample.
Because this is a qualitative research study that uses
nonrandom sampling, it would be inappropriate to draw
conclusions about the statistical significance of events and
conditions we studied. We provide relevant data for documentation purposes, to illustrate the diversity of the sample we drew and the range of their experiences. The
tabulations and statistics based on our sample cannot be
generalized to the population arrested in raids or other
enforcement activities.
We included open-ended questions as well as some
closed-ended questions or short scales used in surveys to
address issues such as housing, food sufficiency, and child
behavior. In the report we at times refer to prevalence of
certain behaviors or conditions in order to provide a foundation for our more in-depth qualitative analysis. In other
words, we use some numbers to support our stories and
give the reader a sense of how many other respondents in
the sample reported similar experiences.

A number of other limitations also apply to this study.
To document family experiences, interviewers were tasked
with eliciting information across a broad range of domains.
Doing so required building and maintaining strong rapport
with respondents. We avoided lengthy closed-ended collection instruments so as not to disrupt the flow of conversation or trust between interviewers and respondents. We did
not always ask short scales and closed-ended questions in the
specific order and wording required for sophisticated scale
construction. We used such questions more to elicit openended responses than to develop quantitative indicators of
health and well-being.
Using parental reports as the primary source of data
about the effects on children has both strengths and weaknesses. Parents may be limited in their ability to answer some
questions, such as those about their children’s school performance, since they may not readily observe it. Parents’ own
experiences may also affect their reporting. For example,
parents experiencing stress for an extended period of time
may interpret their children’s behavior in a gloomy light.
Conversely, parents may underreport less visible internalizing
symptoms of anxiety or depression. Parents may also be
reluctant to admit that their own arrest or detention has
negatively affected their children. Further, parents may not
equally understand what was meant by each of the questions
we asked. For all of these reasons, the protocols were designed
to ask to the extent possible about changes in specific observable behaviors, and to probe further using nontechnical
terms that parents could understand.
Finally, we asked respondents about events and conditions in their families and for their children before and
after the worksite raids and other enforcement activities.
Based on their responses, we drew some conclusions about
the impacts of immigration raids on children. We did not,
however, collect sufficient data in a structured fashion
that would permit broader generalizations. Nonetheless,
the information in this report should provide useful
insights for understanding how these raids and other
arrests affect families and communities. From these data we
draw what we believe to be appropriate policy conclusions
and recommendations.

11

2. THE SEPARATION OF PARENTS
AND CHILDREN FOLLOWING
IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT
his chapter answers the first set of research questions about parent-child separations that followed worksite raids and
other immigration enforcement activities. We begin with family separation because it poses serious risks to children’s
immediate safety, economic security, well-being, and longer-term development. Separation from a parent can be
immediately traumatic and mean less—or less safe—supervision of a child. It can also mean less attention and reduced
parent-child bonding. Children experiencing prolonged separation may experience emotional difficulties and have less
assistance with their development and schooling.

T

There is a growing body of research that has explored
the effects of family separation, either as a result of families
migrating to the United States without their children or
due to removal and deportation. These studies examine
how children and parents respond and adjust to family
separation. The circumstances surrounding separation
(especially who is separated from whom), family and household dynamics, reunification or the prospect of reunification,
the immigration status of individual family members, and
length of separation can complicate or relieve the damaging
consequences of parent-child separation.20
This chapter describes the effects of enforcement actions
on parent-child separation not only in the short term—the
days and weeks following arrest—but also in the intermediate
and longer terms. In this chapter, we cover three phases that
we have found best describe the complex experiences of
families: the immediate aftermath of a raid or parental arrest,
the limbo period when parents are detained or are released
but contest their deportation, and the final disposition of cases
leading to deportation or granting of U.S. residency. The way
our sample of families was selected means that we do not have
representative quantitative information about the proportion
of families or children experiencing various kinds and durations of separation, but our qualitative data describe how

separations played out for the families and children involved.
Beyond this overall description, the chapter also identifies
differences in parent-child separation as a result of changes
in enforcement policy, and it looks at differences based on
the type of enforcement action—worksite raids compared
with fugitive operations and arrests by state and local police.

20

A number of studies examine how families cope after being
separated during the migration process. For a review of the
impacts resulting from family separation during migration, see
Carola Suárez-Orozco, Irina L. G. Todorova, and Josephine Louie,
2002, “Making Up for Lost Time: The Experience of Separation
and Reunification among Immigrant Families,” Family Process 41:
625–43; Carola Suárez-Orozco, Hee Jin Bang, and Ha Yeon Kim,
“Psychological and Academic Implications of Transnational
Immigrant Family Separations,” under review; and Cecilia Manjívar
and Leisy Abrego, 2009, “Parents and Children across Borders:
Legal Instability and Intergenerational Relations in Guatemalan
and Salvadoran Families,” pp. 160–89 in Across Generations:
Immigrant Families in America, edited by Nancy Foner, New York
and London: New York University Press. For a study of family
separation stemming from removal and deportation, see Nestor
Rodriguez and Jacqueline Maria Hagan, 2004, “Fractured Families
and Communities: Effects of Immigration Reform in Texas, Mexico,
and El Salvador,” Latino Studies 2: 328–51; and Jacqueline Hagan,
Karl Eschbach, and Nestor Rodriguez, 2008, “U.S. Deportation
Policy, Family Separation, and Circular Migration,” International
Migration Review 42: 64–88.
13

The descriptions in this chapter set the stage for the
next two chapters, which trace important consequences for
children that may flow from parent-child separation. The
next chapter describes children’s and families’ experiences
of economic hardship, including crowded housing and food
insecurity, after the arrest of a working parent. After that,
chapter 4 describes the behavioral, psychological, and
developmental effects on children.

Overview of Parent-Child Separations
A few different scenarios might follow from the arrest of a
parent for an immigration violation, all of which have
implications for the well-being of children and other family
members. First, parents may be released promptly after their
arrest to care for their children or for other humanitarian
reasons. These parents—who may be released on their own
recognizance, after posting a bond, or with an ankle monitoring device or another form of supervision—often remain
in the communities in which they were arrested for months
or even years awaiting resolution of their deportation cases.
Second, parents may be detained for prolonged periods,
during which they are separated from their children. Third,
parents may be deported or choose voluntary departure,
either immediately after their arrest or after prolonged
detention. Deportation represents a potentially permanent
geographic separation of children from their parents. Some
of the parents who take voluntary departure are allowed to
spend time with their families before leaving, but others
leave the country without having this opportunity.
We summarize below the experiences of parents in our
sample as they moved through this process. These experiences

should be seen as examples but are not necessarily representative of all the arrested parents in our sites. Our sample
includes examples of many different family experiences, but
the sample may somewhat overrepresent parents—usually
mothers—who were released, and it may underrepresent
those who experienced longer detention or deportation.

Early Release of Some Parents in the Sample
The parents in our study experienced detention periods
ranging from just a few hours up to 10 months. Forty-two
parents were released on the day of their arrest, primarily for
humanitarian reasons—for example, to take care of their
children (table 2.1). The vast majority of the parents released
the same day were women (37), and most of these (34) also
had children under age 6. Ten of those released on the same
day were single mothers.
A nearly equal number of parents (45) spent at least
one night in jail. In 17 cases, the parent was held for
between 24 hours and one week before being allowed to
rejoin his or her family; 10 more were held for up to one
month. Eighteen parents were detained longer than one
month, and of these, eight were eventually released, four
remained in detention at the time of our interviews, and six
were detained for an extended period and then deported.

Arrests of Both Parents
Arrests of both parents (or a parent and unmarried partner)
occurred in 12 families in the sample. In eight cases, the
mother alone was released on the same day to take care of
the children while her husband, partner or—in one case—

TABLE 2.1. Length of Separation of Parents from Children for Sample Respondents
Length of Separation
Site
Grand Island, NE
New Bedford, MA
Van Nuys, CA
Postville, IA
Miami MSA, FL
Rogers-Springdale, AR
Total

Released same day

1 day–1 week

1 week–1 month

1 month–6 months

> 6 monthsa

Total

7
2
18
11
4
0
42

1
5
10
0
0
1
17

2
2
0
0
2
4
10

0
0
0
6
2
3
11

2
1
0
1
1
2
7

12
10
28
18
9
10
87

Source: Urban Institute surveys of families in study sites.
a. Includes four cases in which parents were still detained at the time of interview.

14

ex-husband remained in detention. In one case, both the
mother and father were released on the day of the raid to
care for their infant child.
In three cases, both parents were held beyond the day
of arrest. A New Bedford mother was held until the next
day because immigration agents thought she looked too old
to have an infant at home. She had given birth to a girl
three months before the raid. Agents ignored her pleas for
release. The father, who was held for two months, had also
informed the agents that his wife needed to pick up the
infant from the babysitter. In Grand Island, a father who
had a work permit was held because he did not want to
reveal where his wife was hiding. He was released three days
later, but his wife was arrested and remained in detention
over a year and a half after the raid. Two parents from
Arkansas were both held on immigration violation charges
for an extended period. The mother was detained for three
weeks before her release and the father was held for three
months. The grandparents took care of the children while
the parents remained in detention. This was the only case in
our sample in which both parents were detained for an
extended period, and it involved arrest by the local police
rather than ICE agents.

Parental Deportation
Twenty of the 85 families—and 49 out of 190 children in
our sample—experienced the deportation of a parent by the
time of our last interview with the family. Many of our
interviews took place within six months after the raid or
other form of arrest. Sometimes the parent was still in
detention. Even in our second-round interviews, more than
nine months after arrest, many families were still contesting
their deportation and the outcome was uncertain. Of
the 12 men and eight women deported, nine were from
Postville, five from Grand Island, four from Miami, one
from New Bedford, and one from the Rogers-Springdale
area. Seven parents returned to Mexico, nine to Guatemala,
and four to Haiti.
Some of the parents who were eventually deported were
detained for varying periods of time before their removal.
Five parents chose to leave voluntarily immediately after their
same-day release from detention. Another six deportees were
detained for between several days and one month prior to
their removal. The remaining nine parents were in detention
for extended periods averaging about six months before their

final deportation. Many of these longer-term deportations
were in Postville, where the majority of arrestees overall (but
not in our sample) spent five or six months in detention.
These overall findings reflect considerable differences
among our sites due to different enforcement strategies,
including changes in ICE policies over time. We now turn
to variation in children’s experiences of separation by type
of immigration enforcement and study site.

Parent-Child Separations in Workplace Raids
Our 2007 report Paying the Price focused exclusively on
three large-scale worksite raids which all took place in late
2006 or early 2007. The current study includes worksite
raids that occurred over a longer time frame—between late
2006 and early 2008, allowing us to examine changes in
ICE worksite enforcement tactics over this period. During
the earlier Grand Island and New Bedford raids, there was
greater inconsistency in releasing parents soon after the raid
versus keeping them in detention. More parents were held
for long hours or extended periods lasting a week in the earlier raid sites, especially in New Bedford.21 In November
2007, after the Grand Island and New Bedford raids, ICE
released new guidelines for worksite raid operations—
guidelines developed at least in part to respond to criticisms of how the New Bedford raid was conducted. These
guidelines specified that in worksite raids of 150 arrests or
more, all single parents and primary caregivers, as well as
arrestees with serious medical conditions, should be
immediately released.22
The Postville and Van Nuys raids occurred in 2008,
after the guidelines were developed, and were large enough
for them to apply. During these raids, ICE followed the
guidelines by releasing primary or sole caregivers of minor
children and those with acute medical conditions quickly—
usually the same day—and often directly from the raid site.
Consequently, there were no accounts of children left
unattended or neglected for a significant amount of time in
either Van Nuys or Postville. In fact, the large majority of

21

Capps et al., 2007.
On April 30, 2009, the new Obama administration extended
these guidelines to include worksite raids with 25 or more arrests.
For more detail, see ICE, 2009, “Worksite Enforcement Strategy,”
Fact Sheet, Washington, DC, April 30, http://www.ice.gov/doclib/
pi/news/factsheets/worksite_strategy.pdf.

22

15

the cases in which parents had been released on the same
day as the raid—as described above in table 2.1—occurred
in these two sites.
In Van Nuys and Postville, all of the single mothers in
our sample returned to their families on the day of the raid,
though a single grandmother in charge of a young child was
held for two days. In these raids, mothers also generally
reported somewhat shorter arrest and processing periods on
the day of arrest than did those arrested in the New Bedford
or Grand Island raids. All were reunited with their families
by evening and most were released earlier in the day.
In the longer term, many parents in all four of our
worksite raid sites were deported. However, due to the efforts
of immigration defense attorneys, several dozen immigrants
in New Bedford, Van Nuys, and Postville received work
permits while contesting their deportations or cooperating
with prosecution of their employers. In Postville, about two
dozen received “U-visas” for crime victims—mostly due to
sexual and other harassment at work—and another group of
30 received temporary work permits for cooperating with the
federal immigration case against their employers.23 In New
Bedford, at least 15 of the workers were able to acquire permanent resident status through the granting of asylum
claims, U-visas, or special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS).24
In Van Nuys, a group of 30–35 received temporary work
permits for cooperating in the investigation against their
employer, and 60–70 others had their deportation withheld
while the legality of the raid was contested. Across the study
sites, small numbers of other arrested immigrants were

23

U-visas were authorized by Congress in the Victims of Trafficking
and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-386) and are
granted to victims of crime or people who possess information about
a range of crimes committed in the United States. To qualify for a
U-visa, immigrants must cooperate with U.S. law enforcement officials in prosecuting the crime. For more information, see National
Immigration Law Center, 2000, “Congress Creates New ‘T’
and ‘U’ Visas for Victims of Exploitation,” Immigrant Rights
Update, 14(6), October 19, http://www.nilc.org/immlawpolicy/
obtainlpr/oblpr039.htm.
24 To qualify for SIJS, an immigrant youth must be under the
jurisdiction of a juvenile court and eligible for long-term foster care
due to drug abuse, abandonment, or neglect. Generally, this means
that the youth is in long-term foster care and not eligible for family
reunification. SIJS petitions lead to permanent residency but must
be filed before youth turn age 18 and while they are still in custody
of the state. For more information, see Center for Human Rights
and Constitutional Law, 2004, “Special Immigrant Juvenile
Status,” October 20, http://immigrantchildren.org/SIJS/.
16

granted asylum, had domestic violence or marriage claims
that were accepted, or were young people who had been
placed in foster care and would become eligible for SIJS.
The remainder of this section details the separation
experiences of parents and children in the different worksite
study sites. In addition, we take this opportunity to provide
more detail on immigration operations in each site and
briefly explain the degree to which our sample reflects the
experiences of other arrestees in each site.

Grand Island, Nebraska
The first of our study sites was part of the largest single-day
operation that ICE has ever conducted. On December 12,
2006, ICE conducted “Operation Wagon Train” in which
agents simultaneously raided six Swift and Company
meatpacking plants in Greeley, Colorado; Grand Island,
Nebraska; Marshalltown, Iowa; Worthington, Minnesota;
and Cactus, Texas, arresting over 1,200 immigrants.25 Swift
and Company had used the DHS electronic verification system for its employees, and false SSNs had been discovered.
ICE obtained warrants to raid the plants to find and arrest
those with false SSNs. There were also small numbers of
arrests in people’s homes for at least a week in Grand Island
and some of the other Swift sites.
A total of 273 workers were arrested at the Swift plant
in Grand Island. They were taken by bus to Camp Dodge,
a National Guard facility in Iowa, for initial processing—
checking identities against ICE and criminal databases; taking
fingerprints; and making initial determinations about who
should be released, detained, or allowed to leave the country
voluntarily. More than a quarter of arrestees (72 out of 273),
many of whom were fathers in two-parent families, opted to
take voluntary departure shortly after their arrest.26 Only a

25

Two of these raid sites—Greeley and Grand Island—were included
in our 2007 report, Paying the Price.
26 Voluntary departure has several advantages over formal deportation. First, voluntary departure is faster: immigrants can leave the
country (and get out of detention) as soon as they are able to make
travel arrangements. Contesting deportation can take months or even
years—as was the case for many parents in our sample. Voluntary
departure is often a way to end this process before it becomes
prolonged. Second, formal deportation makes immigrants ineligible
for a visa to reenter the country legally for 3 to 10 years, which is
not the case for immigrants taking voluntary departure. Third,
immigrants who have been formally deported are charged with a
felony if they are caught reentering the United States illegally.

limited number of parents that we know of (six single mothers
and three parents whose spouses had also been arrested) were
released promptly after the raid to care for their children.27
These early releases were achieved through the pressure of
lawyers and community groups, some of whom showed up at
the factory with children to demand their parents’ release.
Most of the rest of the arrestees were placed in continuing
detention, and many workers were sent to facilities in Georgia
and Alabama, far removed from their families. For the great
majority of Grand Island arrestees, detention and separation
from their children lasted for extended periods of time.
The length of detention and the nature of the legal
process for families varied. By the six-month mark, 26 arrestees
(10 percent of the total) had been criminally charged and were
serving one-year sentences. The remaining workers had been
either released on bond or deported. Those released paid
bonds ranging from $1,500 to $10,000.
Lawyers initially estimated that fewer than 10 percent
of those who stayed in the U.S. could contest their deportation based on asylum, marriage to a U.S. citizen, domestic
violence, or another claim. At least a dozen arrestees were
still contesting their deportation as of August 2009, and we
only heard of two cases in which arrestees had been granted
permanent residency. These examples from Grand Island as
well as in the other sites show that legal battles to fight
deportation can keep families in limbo for years.
The families in our sample differed from other families
who experienced the Grand Island raid in important ways.
First, while same-day release from ICE custody was rare in
Grand Island, more than half of our respondents (7 of 12)
had this experience. Second, only two of the workers we
interviewed experienced long-term detention even though
this was the norm for this site. Third, none of the parents
with whom we spoke mentioned that a spouse had taken
voluntary departure, while among all the arrestees voluntary
departures predominated and many formal deportations had
already occurred by the time of our second visit in June
2008. Five of the families we interviewed were ultimately
affected by deportation.

New Bedford, Massachusetts
Our second study site experienced one of the most controversial worksite raids because so many immigrant parents

27

Capps et al., Paying the Price, 2007.

were held for prolonged periods of time, resulting in hardship for their families. A federal agent had been working
undercover at Michael Bianco, Inc.—a contractor making
backpacks for the U.S. military—and through this investigation, ICE obtained a warrant for violations of working conditions and workers’ rights. On March 6, 2007, ICE agents
raided Michael Bianco with a large show of force, which
local leaders compared to an invasion by land, air, and sea.
A total of 361 immigrants were arrested and most were
transferred to Fort Devens, a U.S. Army training facility just
outside of Boston, where lawyers and consular officials were
unable to see them.28
The length of parents’ separation from their children
in this site varied substantially. About 60 New Bedford
arrestees were released within the first three days on
humanitarian grounds. However, most of the remaining
arrestees (211) were flown to three different detention facilities in Texas two days after their initial arrest. This complicated the efforts of lawyers, consular officials, and workers
from the Massachusetts Department of Social Services
(MDSS) to contact them and inquire about the presence of
children in their homes.29 Eventually, the lawyers and a contingent of MDSS workers travelled to the detention centers
in Texas. It took two very long days of interviews by MDSS
workers, along with the intervention of Massachusetts’s governor and its two U.S. senators, to get about two dozen women
with children released in the week following their visit.30 Two
months after the raid, the majority of workers (191) were still
in detention, though about 42 percent of the workers (149)
had been released to await the result of their immigration
cases, most with bonds ranging from $1,500 to $32,000.31
28

Following both the Grand Island and New Bedford raids, ICE
initially denied attorneys access to the facilities where most of the
detainees were held because these were military facilities.
29 The arrestees from El Salvador were generally kept within
Massachusetts, but most of those from Guatemala and other
countries were flown out of state.
30 See for example Senator Edward M. Kennedy, 2007, “Making
an Example of New Bedford Workers Doesn’t Solve the Problem,”
New Bedford Standard Times, March 13; and Shane Harris, 2007,
“Raid, ‘Rashomon’ Style,” National Journal, April 14. Outrage
over this situation prompted the Congressional hearings which led
to the issuance of the new humanitarian guidelines for workplace
raids referred to in the overview of this section.
31 Many of the bonds were paid by a local philanthropist, Robert
Hildreth, who initially remained anonymous and later identified
himself. This philanthropist also later started a bond fund for
detainees in other raids.
17

By the one-year anniversary of the raid, all of the
detainees had been released and many cases had been
closed. About 44 percent of those who were originally
arrested (160) had been deported; of these, slightly less
than half (75) had signed voluntary departure agreements.
However, another 190 cases were still being contested
by families’ immigration lawyers. Two years after the
raid, 15 of the workers had been able to acquire permanent status in the U.S.; another hundred or more were
still awaiting decisions or were still in the process of contesting their cases. New Bedford and Van Nuys were the
two study sites with the largest numbers of deportation
cases that were still being contested more than a year
after the raids.
As in Grand Island, the parents we interviewed in
New Bedford experienced shorter separations from their
children than other workers at the same workplace raid.
While more than half of those detained at Michael Bianco
were held for more than two months after their arrest,
only one of the parents with whom we spoke had been in
detention for more than a month. Similarly, despite the
prevalence of deportation and voluntary departure among
detained workers in New Bedford, only one of our sample
families experienced this kind of separation.

Van Nuys, California
In our third study site, ICE put its new humanitarian release
policy into practice. On February 7, 2008, ICE executed a
search warrant and raided the headquarters and a manufacturing plant for Micro Solutions Enterprises, which makes
printer cartridges for computers.32 However, in contrast to
the earlier raids, ICE called civil rights groups and social
service agencies beforehand to alert them of an imminent
raid in the area.33 ICE systematically screened and identified
for early release those workers with health problems or
minor children. Of the 138 immigrants arrested, 48 were
released the same day under the new guidelines—some with
EMDs on their ankles.
Within a few days, the majority (99) of the arrestees
had been released, though the conditions of their release

32

Two or three of these arrests were in people’s homes.
Editorial, 2008, “Immigration Evolution: As Legislative Reforms
Stall, Those on the Front Lines Are Hammering Out Workable
Compromises,” Los Angeles Times, April 3.
33

18

varied. Some parents were released without any conditions,
while others’ were released after posting a $1,000 bond or
wearing an EMD.34
In our study sample, 18 out of 28 respondents were
released on the day of the raid, and the other 10 were
released within the first week—exemplifying the implementation of ICE’s new humanitarian release policies. Twelve
workers in our sample were released with an ankle bracelet
initially. ICE agents expedited the processing of several
respondents so that they could make it home to their children on the same day as the raid, even though this resulted
in their being released without bracelets. Those released
without EMDs were all required to return for a follow-up
appointment to complete their paperwork. Thus there were
no cases in our Van Nuys sample of prolonged detention or
immediate deportation following arrest. Our sample fit the
profile of the arrested population in Van Nuys, where virtually everyone was released quickly and almost no one was
deported.
By June 2009, 15 months after the raid, 30–35 arrestees
had decided to cooperate with ICE in testifying against
Micro Solutions managers, and their deportation cases were
put on hold at the discretion of the government. Within
this group, some were given work permits, while others were
not. Aside from these cases that were put on hold, most of
the immigrants arrested in Van Nuys were still contesting
their deportation as of December 2009—more than a year
and a half after the raid. About half of the arrestees (60–70)
had their deportation withheld after their attorneys challenged
the legality of the raid itself. ICE did not have evidence that
any of this group were in the country unlawfully; only 8 of
the 138 arrestees were listed by name on criminal arrest
warrants. A handful of other arrestees were pursuing relief
from deportation individually.
Finally, a small but unknown number of Van Nuys
arrestees had left the country voluntarily or had been

34

ICE has an extensive monitoring infrastructure for unauthorized
immigrants with deportation orders in Los Angeles, including a
new program called the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program
(ISAP). ISAP is one of ICE’s initiatives to create alternatives to
detention and includes use of ankle bracelet EMDs, telephone
calls, required office visits, and unannounced home visits.
See ICE, 2009, “Alternatives to Detention,” Fact Sheet,
Washington, DC, March 16, http://www.ice.gov/pi/news/
factsheets/2009_immigration_detention_reforms.htm.

deported because they had previous deportation orders
when they were arrested. Most of the ankle bracelets were
removed within a few months after the raid.35
In our sample, at the time of the follow-up interview
in May 2009, four parents were qualified to receive work
permits. Two had received a work permit and two were
still waiting to receive a work permit. The others still
found themselves without permits while awaiting the final
outcomes of their legal cases.

Postville, Iowa
The experiences of arrested parents were very different in
our fourth site, Postville, which was the largest single-site
raid we studied (389 arrests) and took place in a small-town
setting (just 2,300 official population). Agriprocessors, a
kosher meatpacking plant, had been under investigation by
various federal and state agencies for underage hiring,
worker abuses, and environmental infractions for some time
when it was raided on May 12, 2008. Almost 1,000 agents
descended on the town along with helicopters and multiple
vehicles; this was the largest show of force in any site we
visited. Most of the 389 arrested immigrants were arrested
at the work site and then moved to the Cattle Congress in
nearby Waterloo, Iowa, where ICE and the U.S. District
Attorney’s Office set up trials over a period of about 10 days.
Among the 389 arrested, most were men and most did not
have children in the United States.
On the day of the raid, 47 adults (44 women and 3 men)
were released under humanitarian guidelines because they
were parents; all of them were outfitted with EMDs on their
ankles. About 20 other adults were held by ICE without
criminal charges. In addition, 22 underage workers were
arrested; 17 of these minors were released, and 5 were sent
into the custody of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement
as unaccompanied minors.36 The 47 adults released on

35

Alex Garcia, 2009, “Uncertainty Remains for Immigrants
Detained during Van Nuys Raid,” San Fernando Valley Sun,
January 1.
36 In Iowa it is against the law for meatpacking plants to employ
people under age 18, but Agriprocessors had employed at least two
dozen minors, not all of whom were arrested during the raid. The
illegal employment of these minors was one of the most controversial elements of plant operations and has led to charges against the
owners, as well as U-visas for some of the minors—as they were
victims of underage hiring.

humanitarian grounds in Postville were required to wear the
ankle EMDs for a prolonged period of time—more than a
year in a few cases. In the summer of 2008, 15 of this group
agreed to depart voluntarily and left the country. The
remaining 32 worked with lawyers to contest their deportation with claims for asylum, domestic violence, or victimization at the plant.37
In our Postville sample, 11 of the 18 parents we
interviewed were processed at the worksite and released on
the same day. One of these 11 respondents said that ICE
did not ask whether she had young children, and she did
not volunteer the information until late in the day. She
and her husband, parents of two daughters (ages 1 and 5),
were arrested at the plant and put in buses to be transferred to Waterloo, Iowa. At 6:30 p.m. before the bus
left, an agent asked her why she was crying so much. She
told the agent that she was worried about her daughters.
At that point, she was removed from the bus and
reprocessed for release by 8:30 that evening. Another
mother in Postville did not disclose she had children
at home, but rather told ICE officials that her children
were on vacation, fearing they might be taken away if
ICE visited her home. As a result, she was detained for
five months. Reflecting on her experience during the
interview, she said she would have let ICE know she had
children if she had been informed that this would have
made her eligible for early release.
Parents in Postville who were detained beyond the first
day of the raid had longer detention periods than in any of
our other workplace raid sites. One of the unique features of
the Postville raid was the leveling of criminal charges against
a large majority of arrested immigrants. Over 300 immigrants
were threatened with aggravated identity theft—a felony
carrying a two-year prison term—because they had used
someone else’s SSN. Charges were dropped against about
35 of these immigrants because the SSNs they used did not
actually belong to someone else (i.e., they used completely
invalid SSNs), but the remaining 270 pled guilty to the
misdemeanor charge of misusing SSNs and served fivemonth terms in state and federal facilities scattered across

37 In particular, there were numerous accusations of sexual and
physical harassment of female employees at Agriprocessors, and
these alleged incidents formed the basis for U-visa applications for
many of the women in the ankle EMD group.

19

the Midwest.38 Seven parents in our Postville sample were
detained for three to five months and then released with
work permits.
In May 2009, about a year after the raid, the U.S.
Supreme Court struck down the convictions of SSN misuse,
finding that the distinction between having an invalid SSN
and using someone else’s SSN was meaningless, and that the
immigrants could not possibly have understood that they
had stolen someone else’s identity.39 The decision came too
late for most of the 270, who had already served their fivemonth terms and been deported. However, 41 were released
in October 2008—after their terms were over—to testify
against Agriprocessors, and most of this group received work
permits.40 Thirty-five of them were adults released to testify
in the federal immigration case against Agriprocessors vice
president Shalom Rubashkin. These 35 adults (including
seven in our sample) were released with ankle EMDs in
November 2008, and in February 2009 a court ordered
their EMDs removed. In November 2009, the federal
government dropped its immigration charges against
Rubashkin, as he had already been convicted on 86 counts
of financial fraud and faced likely significant jail time. In
December 2009, these 35 immigrants awaited their likely
imminent deportation.41 The other six who were released
after serving their sentences were minors expected to testify
in the State of Iowa’s case against Agriprocessors for hiring
underage workers, a case still expected to go forward.

38 The speedy processing of these immigrants in group trials at the
“Cattle Congress,” their coercion into signing the pleas, and the
lack of adequate interpretation and translation (as many immigrants
were Guatemalans who spoke neither English nor Spanish well)
were roundly criticized by the media, immigration attorneys, and
some of those present during the proceedings. Eventually there were
Congressional hearings on the topic. For a full accounting see the
Congressional testimony of one of the Spanish language interpreters,
Erik Camayd-Freixas, 2008, “Statement of Dr. Erik Camayd-Freixas,
Federally Certified Interpreter at the U.S. District Court for the
Northern District of Iowa Regarding a Hearing on ‘The Arrest,
Prosecution, and Conviction of 297 Undocumented Workers in
Postville, Iowa,’ from May 12 to 22, 2008, before the Subcommittee
on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and
International Law,” July 24.
39 Adam Liptak and Julia Preston, 2009, “Justices Limit Use of
Identity Theft Law in Immigration Cases,” New York Times, May 4.
40 Some of this group of 41 actually served an additional month in
jail before they were released as material witnesses.
41 Grant Schulte, 2009, “Postville Immigrants Face Likely
Deportation,” Des Moines Register, December 6.

20

In December 2009, more than a year and a half after
the raid, 29 women and minors—beyond those released as
material witnesses—had received U-visas or work permits,
and there were 30 deportation relief cases still pending.
Some of those who received visas and permits were not
caught up in the raid.

Parent-Child Separations in
the Nonworkplace Raid Sites
Besides the arrests at workplaces, immigration enforcement
activities can take the form of FOT sweeps conducted by
ICE agents and 287(g) arrests made by local police and sheriffs. Our current study expands the scope of the research
described in our 2007 report Paying the Price to include these
activities in addition to worksite raids. Because these arrests
are most often the result of investigations of individuals
rather than large employers, ICE’s humanitarian guidelines
around detention do not apply. Moreover, the scale of the
arrests in any given operation is generally too small—less than
150 arrests at the time (less than 25 now)—for the guidelines
to apply. The fact that humanitarian guidelines do not apply,
along with the relative invisibility of these operations in comparison to workplace raids, makes parents and children particularly vulnerable to long separations. Nonetheless, there
were instances in Miami when ICE released parents quickly
for humanitarian reasons.42 There were no such releases—
and detention periods tended to be long—following arrests
by the local police in Rogers-Springdale, Arkansas.

Miami, Florida
Our research took place in the Miami metropolitan area,
which in 2005–2007 was home to about one-third of the

42

ICE has issued guidelines stating that FOTs should not take
into custody children under age 18 who are citizens or permanent residents but instead should refer them, in order, to child
welfare authorities, local law enforcement agencies, or a third
party designated by the parent. These guidelines prioritize referral to child welfare or law enforcement over placement with
relatives or friends of arrested immigrants. In practice it is not
known the extent to which the FOTs follow the guidelines, and
we did not encounter referrals of children to child welfare or local law
enforcement during our visit to Miami. See ICE, 2007, “Juveniles
Encountered during Fugitive Operations,” Washington, DC: Office
of Detention and Removal Operations, http://www.ice.gov/
doclib/foia/dro_policy_memos/juvenilesencounteredduring
fugitiveoperations.pdf.

nation’s Haitian immigrants (about 175,000 out of
500,000).43 Miami is home to a large Haitian unauthorized
population, many of whom are on ICE’s list for final deportations—a list estimated at 30,000 people nationally.44
Many of the Haitian immigrants in the area applied for but
were denied asylum, and others overstayed visas. There have
not been many Haitian arrivals in the past few years, and
most of the Haitians apprehended by ICE have resided in
the United States for a long time.45
The arrests of Haitians in Miami occurred in small
batches over a period of a few years. In 2008 there were
many sweeps by FOTs—sometimes alongside Border
Patrol agents or the local police—as well as arrests of
Haitians during court dates and at ICE interviews. For
example, in November 2008—a month before our visit—
71 immigrants of various nationalities, including Haitians,
were arrested by Miami FOTs.46 A number of arrested
Haitians were married to U.S. citizens who had petitioned
for their legal residency. Nevertheless, some of this group
had outstanding deportation orders and were arrested

43 American Community Survey, 2005–2007 three-year average,
estimates from American Factfinder, http://factfinder.census.gov.
44 Kirk Semple, 2009, “Haitians in U.S. Illegally Look for Signs of
a Deporting Reprieve,” New York Times, May 27.
45 There has been a long-running political battle in Congress and
the media over whether the U.S. government should grant
Haitians either permanent asylum or TPS—as has been given
to immigrants from several other countries in the Western
Hemisphere. TPS, which allows immigrants to work and reside
temporarily in the U.S., has been designated through September
2009 for some immigrants from Somalia, through May 2010 for
Sudan, through July 2010 for Honduras and Nicaragua, and
through September 2010 for El Salvador. See U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services, 2009, “Temporary Protected Status,”
Washington, DC, April 30, http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/
menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=
609d3591ec04d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD&vgnext
channel=609d3591ec04d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and
suffers perennial political instability and violence. It was hit by four
hurricanes in 2008 causing nearly a billion dollars in damages. The
United States has had a consistent policy—in both Republican and
Democratic administrations—of denying TPS, asylum, and other
protective statuses regardless of the severity of circumstances in
Haiti. The Bush administration suspended deportations to Haiti in
September 2008—following the hurricanes—but then resumed
them in December. There were a small number of deportations in
early 2009, but as of June 2009 it was unclear whether the Obama
administration would resume deportations on a significant scale.
46 ICE, 2009, “ICE Arrests 71 Florida Residents in Targeted
Immigration Fugitive Operation,” Press Release, November 26.

and detained at meetings with immigration officers after
their petitions were approved.47 Some Haitians were also
arrested by local police in traffic stops.
Our sample is comprised of immigrant parents—and
spouses or partners of parents—who were arrested in one
of the FOT sweeps or during court appearances or interviews between 2006 and 2008. Because many of the
parents had outstanding deportation orders requiring
mandatory detention, deportation and long-term detention were common both among our respondents and
among other Haitians who were arrested during the same
period. Three parents in our sample were deported and
three were held for more than five months. However, there
were four cases in which parents were immediately released
with ankle bracelets so they would be able to take care of
their children. For example, one single mother was arrested
at her home one morning but was released and ordered to
visit the immigration processing center later that morning.
Immigration agents then told her that her deportation
would be put on hold because she had no one else who
could care for her daughter. This is a rare case in which
ICE actually held up deportation because of a parent’s
caregiving responsibilities—and indicates that ICE has
some capacity for discretion in such cases.

Rogers-Springdale, Arkansas
In September 2007 the police departments of Rogers and
Springdale joined with the sheriff’s offices of the surrounding counties—Benton and Washington—to enter into four
linked 287(g) agreements for a local Immigration Criminal
Apprehension Task Force. Once this new task force was
formed, local officers began pursuing unauthorized immigrants aggressively, arresting them not for serious crimes but
for less serious infractions or for no crimes at all.48 By May
2008, task force officers had arrested 419 immigrants during
the first seven months of the program, but after May 2008

47 In these cases, the outstanding deportation orders appear to
have trumped the petition for residency based on marriage to a
U.S. citizen.
48 ICE recently released data on the characteristics of immigrants
brought into ICE detention through the 287(g) program. In FY
2008, 72 percent (27,000 out of 38,000) of all 287(g) detainees
were not criminal aliens—in other words, they had not committed
any nonimmigration-related crimes at the time of their arrests and
had no prior criminal history. See Schriro, 2009, p. 13.

21

no further data on the program were released.49 For example, the Rogers police department arrested some immigrants
during routine traffic stops, reviving charges of racial profiling.50 Further, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office set up a
New Year’s Eve roadblock and arrested 14 immigrants—
4 for driving under the influence and the other 10 for
driving without a license.51
In a controversial enforcement activity, officers from
both Rogers and Springdale joined ICE agents in conducting mini–workplace raids on a chain of Mexican restaurants in December 2007. During these raids four owners
and relatives were arrested and charged criminally, and
another 19 employees were charged administratively.52
The owners’ home was raided as well, and their assets were
confiscated. This amounted to a worksite raid conducted by
the local police.
The types of arrests among our sampled families
reflected the wide array of enforcement activities being
carried out in the area. About half of the arrests occurred at
the families’ homes, while the rest took place where respondents worked or during routine traffic stops or immigration
appointments. The reasons for the parents’ arrests were also
varied. Three of the nine arrests captured by our sample
were related to the investigation of the Mexican restaurant
chain. Two others involved outstanding deportation orders
similar to those issued for the arrest of Haitians in Miami.
One parent was initially arrested for shoplifting and had her
immigration status checked in the process. One woman’s
abusive boyfriend reported her as unauthorized to local
police. In the final case, a man was arrested and deported

49

The local police departments and ICE refused to release data
on who was arrested and why (i.e., what their criminal charges
were)—citing “privacy concerns” and other factors. See Melissa
Sherman, 2008, “Information Scarce on 287(g) Program: Task
Force Officers Arrest 419 in First Seven Months,” Morning News
(Northwest Arkansas), May 14.
50 The Rogers police department settled a racial profiling lawsuit
brought by Hispanic motorists in 2003. See Mark Minton, 2008,
“Rogers Task Force Revives Fears of Bias: City Says Profiling
Worries Are Baseless,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 15;
and Liz Boch, 2006, “Immigration Plan by Rogers Mayor Worries
Hispanics: They See Racial-Profiling Dangers,” Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette, November 17.
51 Jon Gambrell, 2008, “Hispanic Community Fears New Powers
Given To Local Police in Arkansas,” Associated Press Financial
Wire, March 10.
52 Dave Hughes, 2008, “Two Plead Innocent in Alien-Hiring
Case,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 15.
22

the same day after police routinely stopped the truck full of
laborers that his employer was driving.
None of the parents with whom we spoke had been
granted early release for humanitarian reasons. Respondents
from Arkansas on average had much longer detention periods than the parents we interviewed in other sites. Notably,
three single mothers in Arkansas were held in detention
between 12 days and six months. Finally, we heard of very
few cases in Rogers-Springdale where arrested immigrants
were able to contest their deportation.53 Because of the
additional criminal charges they faced, the likelihood of
humanitarian release or relief from deportation was very
low among immigrants arrested by 287(g) officers in
Rogers and Springdale.

Reliance on Spouses, Partners,
and Extended Family for Children’s Care
during Arrest and Detention
One of the key concerns surrounding parent-child separation is the well-being of children in the care of someone
other than their parent. In our sample, detained parents
primarily relied on their spouse or extended family members to take care of the children during parental detention, over both the short and longer term. As a result,
children were almost never left unattended following a
parent’s arrest.
In 33 out of our 85 sampled families, parents were
released and reunited with their families on the day of their
arrest. This included 11 single-parent families and 22 twoparent families; in the 22 two-parent cases, children saw
both their parents again by the end of the day. As discussed
earlier, in one case, both parents had been detained and
released the same day to care for their infant. Sixty-one out
of 190 children in our study sample saw their parents
before the end of the day and did not experience separation
resulting from a parent’s arrest. Also, as discussed earlier,
there were eight instances in which two parents were both
arrested and one parent was released to care for the children. In each instance the mother was reunited with the

53 In August 2009, nearly two years after the program’s implementation, we only heard of one documented case where an arrested
immigrant might get a visa under through the Violence against
Women Act (VAWA). The VAWA case had started long before
the arrest.

children, but the children were separated from their fathers,
who remained detained.
In the remaining 52 families, 129 children experienced
separation beyond the day of arrest: 44 lived in two-parent
families and 8 lived with single parents. Among the twoparent families, 36 detained parents primarily relied on their
spouses to take care of the children. In 28 of these families,
an arrestee’s wife or female partner took care of the children
while her husband or partner remained in detention, and
eight fathers (or male partners) became the primary caregivers when mothers were arrested. Eight two-parent households relied on extended family members or friends to care
for their children during parental detention, including two
cases where both parents were detained and extended family
cared for the couples’ children. In the other six of these
cases, a mother was detained while female family and friends
assumed primary caretaking responsibilities, with support
from the children’s father. In the eight cases where a child
had lived with a single parent before that parent’s arrest,
extended family and friends cared for the child while the
parent remained in detention.
A mother in New Bedford and a custodial grandmother
in Van Nuys were held for days before being released. Close
friends and relatives took care of their children during their
absence. In Arkansas, a divorced mother was released after
12 days, while another single mother remained in detention
for weeks, and a third single mother was held for months. In
these three cases, the mother’s extended family, an ex-partner,
and a close friend, respectively, took care of the children. Two
divorced parents were detained and then deported. In both of
these cases, extended family looked after the deportees’ children, and in one case, the deportee later returned illegally to
the United States to reunite with her children.
Among the families we spoke with, there were only a few
cases in which children were left unsupervised or unattended
for long periods, including one instance when a parent was
released late on the day of the raid. A single mother of three
in Van Nuys said her children were left unsupervised for
several hours before she was released on the evening of the
raid. Her 16- and 17-year-old children arrived home from
school that day and then took care of their 4-year-old
brother by themselves for several hours after he was dropped
off from child care. A couple to whom she rented a separate
bedroom in her home arrived late in the evening and helped
take care of the young boy until the mother was released
from detention very late that same night. One mother in

Arkansas was arrested by the local police for a traffic violation
and narrowly avoided having her toddler left at a Head Start
facility. She was not allowed a phone call by her arresting
officer but managed to secretly make a quick call on her
cell phone before it was taken from her. The mother
called a friend and asked her to pick up her daughter
from Head Start.

Local Community Members Helped Coordinate Care
for the Children of Detainees
In addition to spouses, partners, extended family, and
friends, clergy members and community leaders played
important roles in caring for children separated from their
parents. In Postville, the entire community quickly mobilized because the raid was so large relative to the size of
the community (as over a quarter of the town’s official
population was arrested). St. Bridget’s Catholic Church
became a safe haven for families. The principal and a
counselor at the local public school coordinated all of the
pick-ups and drop-offs of children from school, and child
care center staff did the same for younger children. More
than 100 children of all ages stayed at the church with
their parents who had not been arrested or other relatives
for almost a week after the raid. Schools and churches
played similar supporting roles following the New Bedford
and Grand Island raids, but the families there did not stay
in churches for extended periods. In all three of these sites,
churches, schools, and community organizations worked
together to help families arrange care for their children and
weather the storm in the immediate aftermath of the raids.
There was no large-scale coordinated effort in Van
Nuys, although there were individual instances in which
nonrelated caregivers stepped up to look out for children.
An immediate, coordinated effort to locate children of
arrested parents and find arrangements for them was less
necessary in Van Nuys than the other raid sites, because the
arrestees in Van Nuys were released quickly—including all
of the single parents on the same day of the raid. One of our
Van Nuys respondents told us that one of her children’s
teachers heard about the raid and held two of her students
late at school. The teacher arranged for another parent to
drive them to their adult sister’s house that evening.
Teachers also stayed late to supervise children in Grand
Island, but there, too, all the children went to their own
home or to a relative’s home by the end of the day.
23

Parental Communication with Children
during Detention

Families Where Children Traveled to Parents’
Countries of Origin

Most of the parents who were held for more than one day
reported difficulties communicating with their children during detention. One man who was detained for six months
said he was not permitted to make phone calls from the first
detention center where he was held for a week.54 A mother
from Arkansas had a similar experience. During the first two
months, she was only allowed to write letters. After that, she
could call once or twice a week but had to call collect, and it
was expensive. Other respondents, including a mother from
Grand Island, registered the same complaint: “The calls were
very expensive. Ten dollars for five minutes to talk about everything you could in five minutes. So, I was always depressed
[when I hung up].” Those held in some of the detention
centers were eventually able to use calling cards, which facilitated greater contact with loved ones at home. One mother
said, of her detained spouse, “In the beginning . . . they
weren’t letting him use the card to call. But later, when they
changed him to the detention center where he is now, they let
him use a calling card.”

Five families decided that some or all of the children should
accompany the deported parent while their other parent
stayed behind in the United States. In three of these cases,
the mothers made this decision quickly, opting for voluntary departure after their same-day release, and they took
their children with them. One mother, whose husband and
brothers had fled Postville after the raid, explained that leaving was preferable given the extreme economic hardship that
she and her three children were facing.

Family Separations after Deportation
and Voluntary Departure
The 20 families in our sample where a parent either chose
voluntary departure or was formally deported were forced to
confront difficult and often painful decisions about whether
to send children out of the country with the deported parent.
In eight of these families, some or all of the children went
abroad with one or both parents, while in 12 other cases,
children remained in the United States, separated from one
of their parents. In some of these cases, the whole family
left to join the deported parent, and in others, parents and
siblings were split between countries. Finally, in a few cases,
parents returned illegally to the United States to be reunited
with their children. This section describes the experiences of
these families with deported parents and the decisions that
parents made about the future of their children.

54

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has documented
difficulties with telephone communication between immigrants in
ICE detention and their families. See GAO, 2007, Telephone Access
Problems Were Pervasive at Detention Facilities; Other Deficiencies
Did Not Show a Pattern of Noncompliance, GAO 07-785, July,
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07875.pdf.

24

The truth is here [St. Bridget’s] they’re helping us,
but this month I’ve said that I’m going to move out
because now the situation is that you can’t be with
your kids . . . With a family, it’s a little more difficult,
and so I’m going to turn over the house and I’m going
to take my children. I’m going to take either two or
three children to Guatemala. I’m taking them in
August because you can’t survive like this.
For the other two families that sent at least one child
to be with a parent outside the United States, the trigger
was deportation rather than voluntary departure, and the
reunification of the deported parent and children outside
of the United States came after a period of separation. One
11-year-old U.S.-born girl in Postville was separated from
her mother for five months during the mother’s detention
and for sixth months following the mother’s deportation;
after six months the two were reunited in Mexico. This
meant leaving behind the father and two older siblings, who
were all undocumented and could not travel freely between
the United States and Mexico. In another case, a Miami
mother sent her 2-year-old son to live with his deported
father in Haiti, because she could not afford to keep him
with her in the United States anymore. “The thing is, I
cannot find any work and I have to support him. And if I’m
not working I cannot rely on my parents all the time.”
A total of three other whole families also opted to
reunite with their deported family member in the parent’s
country of origin. In one of the Iowa families facing deportation, the decision for everyone to return to Mexico hastened plans that were already in place to return to their
country of origin. The mother told us that before the raid
occurred, she and her husband had planned on moving back
to Mexico after earning enough money to finish construction on a home they were building there. She said that she

had even started encouraging their 9-year-old son to
improve his Spanish grades at school so he would be ready
to transition to school in Mexico. When both parents were
arrested, they chose voluntary departure and moved back to
Mexico as a family. In another instance, a mother, who followed her husband back to Guatemala after his deportation,
shared how no one in the family had any will left to remain
in Iowa, especially given the economic toll that the arrest
had taken on their household. “They don’t want to be here
anymore, practically, they don’t want to anymore and neither
does their dad.” Moving back reunited this mother and her
four children not only with their deported father but also
with two of their older siblings who had been separated
from the family when their parents had migrated to the
United States to look for work.

Families Where Children Remained in the
United States, Separated from a Deported Parent
At the time of the interview, the children in five of our sampled families remained in the United States, separated from
their deported parent. One Miami mother, whose husband
was deported after six months in detention, leaving her
alone with her three children, lamented, “I just can’t take
care of them anymore. It’s only me and I cannot take care of
them. I have no help.” She found herself working all the time
just to keep the family afloat economically, but she could
not bear the idea of sending their children back to Haiti.
Six of the deported parents reported that they did
everything possible to make it back the United States to be
with their children. For most of these parents, this meant
facing a dangerous border crossing. One mother, who had
been separated from her two children for more than four
months, described the harrowing experiences she endured
to be reunited with her children, who were being taken
care of by an elderly aunt and uncle who had a hard time
caring for them. After borrowing money from friends in
Guatemala to fly to Mexico City, the mother was driven to
the river in a trailer with other migrants. They then walked
for 21 hours until a truck picked them up and brought
them to Houston.
When they dropped us off up here in Houston, we
couldn’t even stand up. We couldn’t stand the pain,
our feet covered with blisters. But in spite of that, I
gave thanks to God that I had made it and that I was
here, and I went to see my kids.

The border crossing took a tragic toll on one family in
particular. After spending six months in jail, the father was
deported to Guatemala and then traveled back through
Mexico to New Bedford to rejoin his wife and 4-year-old
child. He succumbed to a fatal heart attack just hours after
their reunification.
One of these deportees was able to reunite with his
family members through legal means. A Miami man, who
took voluntary departure after he was arrested and released
with an ankle bracelet on the same day, was able to petition
for his legal residence because of his marriage to a U.S. citizen. He returned legally after about 14 months of separation
from his family.
*****
Taken together, our six study sites provide a detailed picture
of family separations following immigration enforcement
operations by ICE and local police officers. There was
considerable variation in the length of time after initial
arrests that parents were detained and separated from their
children, ranging from several months for many parents
in Arkansas, New Bedford, and Postville, to less than a
week for everyone in Van Nuys. The shares of parents
overall and in our sample who were deported also varied
significantly, with more deportations and voluntary
departures in Arkansas, Grand Island and Postville than in
the other sites. Our sample, however, was biased toward
the parents who were released on the same day as their
arrest or early on, because we could not interview those in
detention or those who had already been deported by the
time of our interviews. Nonetheless, about half of the
sample consisted of two-parent families where at least one
parent was arrested and detained for a significant period
of time.
ICE humanitarian guidelines, which arose out of the
controversies surrounding parent-child separations after the
New Bedford raid, appear to have been fully implemented
by early 2008, when the raids occurred in Van Nuys and
Postville. In both of these sites—as well as in Miami, where
the guidelines did not formally apply because the raids did
not occur in workplaces—a significant share of our interviewed parents were released on the same day as their
arrest. Requirements to wear EMDs on their ankles complicated matters for many of these parents, but release with an
EMD was better than prolonged detention from the standpoint of maintaining the relationships between these children and their parents.
25

On the other hand, the findings highlight the potentially far greater level of parent-child separation in enforcement actions carried out by local police through 287(g)
agreements. The ICE humanitarian guidelines did not apply
to the arrests by local police in Rogers and Springdale, where
all of the sampled families experienced prolonged parentchild separations. In both Postville and Rogers-Springdale,
the application of criminal charges mandated detention for
many arrestees—in Rogers-Springdale most were arrested at
their workplace or for minor traffic violations.
Another interesting and somewhat surprising finding
was the variation in the final disposition of cases across our
sites, particularly the differences in the likelihood of deportation across the workplace raid sites. In Van Nuys, only a
small minority of arrestees were deported; about half were
contesting their deportation as of December 2009, and
another 30–35 had their deportation withheld for cooperating in the immigration case against Micro Solutions. More
than half of the New Bedford arrestees were still contesting
their deportation two and a half years after their arrests,
and 15 that we know of have been granted asylee status,
visas, or work permits. In Postville, by contrast, the majority of arrestees (but only a minority of those in our sample)
were held for five months and then deported. Among those
detained for a prolonged period, a significant minority
were eventually released and some were granted work permits for cooperating with the investigation against
Agriprocessors. Others in Postville continue to contest
their deportation as victims of crime or on other grounds.
In Grand Island only a few arrestees ever contested their

26

deportation, and we know of only a handful of cases in
which they were successful.
As we shall see later in the report, much of this variation in outcomes has to do with the thorough legal defense
efforts mounted in New Bedford and Van Nuys—and to a
lesser extent in Postville. These legal defense efforts have
been mounted on a variety of avenues to contest deportation. Thus far the most successful of these across the sites
appears to be pursuit of U-visas for immigrants who are
crime victims (as many were in the terrible working conditions in New Bedford and Postville). In Van Nuys, defense
attorneys used a more unusual strategy, challenging the
legality of the raid itself and the validity of the warrants
served on immigrants there.
Immigrants arrested in the nonworkplace raid sites—
through FOT home raids, at court dates, or in local policing
operations under the 287(g) program—fare worse, with far
less prospect of staying together as a family in the United
States. The Haitians arrested in Miami generally had no
chance to contest their deportation because they already had
final deportation orders. According to respondents, only one
person had his deportation order of removal canceled—out
of hundreds of arrests—in Rogers-Springdale.
Regardless of the eventual outcomes, the vast majority of
our sample from the workplace raids experienced long limbo
periods while their deportation cases were contested. The next
chapter turns to the experience of families during these limbo
periods, with a particular focus on economic hardship as a
consequence of separation—a parent detained or deported—
or as a consequence of a parent’s inability to work.

3. THE EFFECTS OF IMMIGRATION
ENFORCEMENT ON FAMILY
WELL-BEING
his chapter addresses the second set of research questions—the effects of immigration enforcement on child and family
well-being—and focuses specifically on economic hardship, including food insecurity and housing instability. We provide a detailed description of families’ economic circumstances from several perspectives, but we focus in detail on lost
income, food insecurity, and housing instability because these hardships can pose particular risk to children.55 We then discuss
where families turned for assistance and how much assistance they were able to receive.

T

Changes in Families’ Economic Hardship
The arrest of an immigrant parent has severe consequences
for the economic well-being of children and families because
the family generally loses a breadwinner. This is always the
case in a worksite raid, where by definition the arrest is of a
working parent, but it is also often the case when immigrants
are arrested at home or other locations. The loss of a breadwinner occurs not only when parents are detained or
deported, but also when they are released with a pending
immigration case without authorization to work. Thus, in
the vast majority of our cases, family incomes dropped
severely following the raid or other parental arrest. Lost
income triggered further economic hardships for families,
including difficulty paying bills, housing instability, and
food hardship.

Lost Employment and Income
Before their arrest, most parents we interviewed—or their
spouses—were working steadily and earning incomes suffi55

Greg J. Duncan and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, eds., 1997,
Consequences of Growing Up Poor, New York: Russell Sage
Foundation; Jane Waldfogel, 2006, What Children Need,
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

cient for them to support their families. Several of them had
worked many years for the same company and had managed
to obtain supervisory positions with higher wages. One
woman in Van Nuys said she had worked nearly eight years
for a company that merged with Micro Solutions, working
her way up from a line worker to a supervisor, teaching lowerlevel employees how to do their jobs. “I taught people how to
work, looked over their work, kept track of production . . . and
at the end of the day, I had to give a report to my supervisor . . .
about what had been produced that day.” Another worker in
Postville recounted how he had started at Agriprocessors
when he was 14, working the night shift, taking dead chickens and turkeys to the garbage for $6.25 per hour. Over the
next five years, he slowly worked his way up, aided by his
burgeoning English skills, and transferred to the quality
control team where he was making $9.25 per hour at the
time he was arrested. Other workers had managed to build
solid lives for themselves and were slowing breaking into
the middle class. One woman explained, “Everything was
going well. I was in school, I had a good job, I had a magazine
called Contigo, money coming in and going out, I owned a
three-bedroom house, I paid my bills, I had a car. Everything
was good.”
Changes in employment. Across our study sites, one in
four households had no workers at all at the time of our
27

interviews. Even those parents who were released often felt
it would jeopardize their release to work or had difficulty
finding employment. After being arrested in her home by
police investigating unauthorized workers, a mother in
Arkansas said that even though immigration had not expressly
forbidden her to work after she was released, she was afraid
that they would arrest her again if she did. “They didn’t forbid me to work, or release me with any provisions, but, in
truth, I don’t have a way to work anymore. I’m afraid that
immigration will grab me.” Another mother in Arkansas
said that local police often used their knowledge of illegal
employment to pressure immigrants to cooperate with
investigations of their employers.
Respondents released on supervision with ankle monitoring devices (most of whom were in Postville or Van Nuys)
were the least likely to be working. These monitoring devices
have GPS locators, allowing ICE to track immigrants.
Respondents wearing bracelets were afraid ICE would find
out they were working and this would lead to another arrest.
One mother with an ankle bracelet said she could not stay
in any particular location for an extended period of time
because ICE might suspect she was working. Others felt they
could not physically do the work because of the discomfort
of the bracelet. “In fact, you can’t work. It’s uncomfortable even
just to walk.”
Some workers found that even if they overcame their fear
of going back into the labor force, no one would hire them.
One mother noted that everyone in her community knew she
had been detained and that none of the employers would hire

her because they were afraid of having problems with ICE.
“You want to look for work, everybody knows already that you
got picked up, and so they are all afraid and no one wants to give
you work, because you, even though you’re afraid, go out to look
and everyone closes their doors to you.” This was particularly the
case in Postville, a small community in which the plant that
was raided was the only significant employer.
Declines in household income. Household incomes before
the raids or other arrests were modest and varied by site,
reflecting differences in parental occupations and household
structures. Household incomes before arrest were highest in
the worksite raid sites, in part because these parents were
working longer hours. In Postville, where the great majority of
households (15 of 18) had two or more workers who routinely
worked more than eight hours a day, median weekly household income was relatively high compared with all of the other
sites except Grand Island, where the Swift meatpacking plant
workers were unionized (table 3.1). In contrast, families in
Arkansas and Miami had lower household incomes and
depended on fewer workers to support them. Six of nine
Arkansas families and five of nine Miami families relied on
only one paycheck before parental arrest. In both of these
sites, parents worked in a variety of occupations that often
offered part-time hours and paid lower wages than manufacturing. These occupations included service sector jobs in
restaurants and hotels, as well as seasonal work in construction and plant nurseries.
Household incomes dropped precipitously in each of the
four sites we visited within two months after a raid or within

TABLE 3.1. Average Weekly Household Income and Workers Before and After Arrest
Time elapsed

Site

N

Before arrest

Less than
6 months
since arrest

All
Grand Island
New Bedford
Van Nuys
Postville
Miami
Arkansas

85
12
10
27
18
9
9

$509 (1.8)
$652 (1.6)
$553 (2.1)
$428 (2.1)
$654 (2.1)
$290 (1.1)
$376 (1.2)

$154 (1.1)
–
–
$221 (1.4)
$74 (0.6)
$158 (1.0)
$159 (1.0)

% Change
since arrest

More than
6 months
since arresta

% Change
since arrest

−70%
–
–
−48%
−89%
−46%
−58%

$238 (1.3)
$154 (1.3)
$300 (1.1)
$255 (2.0)
$51 (0.5)
$121 (1.0)
$160 (0.6)

−53%
−76%
−46%
−40%
−92%
−58%
−57%

Source: Urban Institute surveys of families in study sites.
Note: Values in parentheses represent the average number of workers per household.
a. For Postville and Van Nuys, these consist of follow-up interviews. For Grand Island and New Bedford, “–” refers to “not applicable” because these data were not collected for our
earlier study, Paying the Price, and are therefore not available for the current report.

28

six months after a parent’s arrest in a nonworksite enforcement action. Postville had the steepest drop in incomes—
to zero in most households—because the parents we
interviewed who had been released with ankle bracelets
were prohibited from working and could not find employment in the community. In Van Nuys where more families
had some members still working after the raid, the loss in
earned income was still nearly half of the pre-raid level,
and many households that had two working members
now had one.
In the instances where we interviewed families at a later
point in time, including the raid sites where we returned,
some families had stabilized their incomes somewhat, bringing up the average, but overall household earnings were still
lower than the pre-raid levels. Households in New Bedford
and Van Nuys were the only ones where weekly incomes
were over half their pre-raid average more than a year after
the raids there. On the other hand, families in Postville
mostly experienced continuing unemployment. Among the
10 Postville families we reinterviewed nine months after the
raid, six had little or no change in the number of workers or
earnings in their households, and two families had lost the
one income that they had had at the time of the first interview. Only one family increased its income between the first
and second interviews. This family, which had no workers
immediately after detention, had one member who was
working informally making and selling jewelry, but the
income earned from this activity was nominal and sporadic.
Our four follow-up visits suggest that substantial declines in
family incomes can persist up to a year or more following
raids and other immigration arrests.

Difficulty Paying Bills
As families lost workers and their incomes declined following the raids or arrests, they began to have more and more
difficulty paying bills. Nearly two-thirds of families (54 of
85) reported having difficulty paying their household bills at
the time of their first interview. These difficulties were most
acute in Miami where all nine families were affected and in
New Bedford where all but one of the 10 families testified to
having economic problems of this type. The economic wellbeing of families seemed to become more precarious over
time. Across our entire sample, a little more than half of
those interviewed between two and six months following
parental arrest had trouble paying bills, and this share rose

to three-quarters for those interviewed at later points in
time. Difficulty paying bills remained relatively stable in
Van Nuys between the first and second round of interviews,
but the rate actually declined in Postville where families
received sustained support for rent and utilities from
St. Bridget’s Church.
Because families often ended up delaying utility payments in order to pay their rent, these kinds of debts were
the first to start piling up. Two out of every five families said
that they had missed at least one payment for basic utilities
such as water, electricity, and gas; and about a fifth had not
paid a bill for telephone, cable, or internet service. Missed
payments led to late fees that compounded difficulties paying bills and, in some cases, service cut-offs. Four families
reported having at least one of their basic utilities cut off
and another 12 families said their phone, cable, or Internet
service had been discontinued.
Parents tried a number of things to keep up. Some cut
off nonessential services like cable and cell phones to pay
the rent or reduced their use of essential services further
beyond already low levels. In Van Nuys, several families
managed to stay in their homes by negotiating with their
landlords over the amount and timing of rental payments,
as well as waiving the cost of utilities. In one case, a father
said that the only way he was able to stay in his apartment
was that the landlord let him apply his security deposit to
the incomplete rental payments he had made. Another
worker shared that he had worked out a deal with the landlord for reduced rent in exchange for repair and maintenance work on his properties.
In Van Nuys, keeping up with bills was even more difficult for those who were released with EMDs on their ankles,
because these EMDs were linked to a telephone landline for
ICE to verify their location. At a time when many other families were discontinuing their phone service, those with ankle
bracelets were being forced by ICE to take on another expense.
Some of these families only had cell phones before the raid and
had difficulty getting the phone company to install a landline
without having a formal credit history. Many times, their
only alternative was to pay an out-of-pocket security deposit.

Housing Instability
Housing was the area in which the steep loss of income became
the most apparent, particularly over time, largely because this
was the families’ biggest expense.
29

Crowded housing. Many of the families started in very
tight housing conditions and were doubled up with relatives
and other families, but the arrests worsened these conditions significantly. For many families we interviewed, the
burden of rent and other household bills was unsustainable
during the first few months after an arrest, and this burden
spurred them to look at other housing alternatives to cut
costs. For one in four families, this meant moving in with
friends or family or having others move in with them to
pool resources.
This doubling up, however, was often less than ideal, as
crowded households only became more overcrowded. One
family of three in Van Nuys initially moved from their onebedroom apartment to a garage after the raid, only to find
that they could not afford the rent there either. From there,
they moved into a two-bedroom house with seven other
family members. Another mother, who had been left alone
with her four children after her husband was detained, faced
a similar reality. She had no choice but to move the five of
them into the three-bedroom house where her mother,
father, sister, and niece were already living. Doubling up
with others changed family situations and affected children.
One family in Van Nuys rented out their bedroom to another
couple and their two children for $250 when money was
especially tight. The experience was particularly hard for the
children, who had conflicts with each other. The children
lacked the space to run around inside the apartment and
had to go play outside in the building’s patio. They told
their mother, “I don’t like to live like this.” But, there was
nothing she could do.
In most cases, housing assistance did not lead to greater
housing stability in the long run, because the amount of assistance received was insufficient to sustain families in their
prior accommodations. Most of the housing assistance was
also short term, for just three or four months after the
raids. One exception was Postville, where charitable assistance through the church persisted for over year after the
raid. However, even in Postville, about a third of the parents interviewed one year after the raid had moved to apartments with lower rents or moved in with family members
or nonrelatives.
Frequent moves. The stigma the arrests carried sometimes led to housing instability. In one case in Van Nuys, a
landlord heard about the raid and asked one of the women
who was arrested to move out because he wanted to avoid
having problems in his building. Another mother in Van
30

Nuys had recurring housing problems because she wore an
ankle bracelet. The couple that was living with her and her
kids was sharing the rent at the time of her arrest but moved
out when they saw she had an ankle bracelet. They were
afraid immigration would come to the house. “So, they said
to me that if they put an ankle bracelet on me, they were going
to move to another place because it made them afraid. I told
them, ‘Don’t be afraid’ and they said, ‘No, we’re going to
leave.’ And they left.” She then left that apartment and
attempted to rent a room in another apartment, but once
the man there found out about the bracelet, he told her
that he was going to leave the apartment if she did not
move out. Given the ultimatum, the mother and her three
children moved into the living room of an apartment that
four men were also renting.
Others reported voluntarily separating from loved ones
to protect them, because living together could have exposed
them to immigration enforcement. One father made the
decision to move in with other workers who had to wear
bracelets and sent his partner and her children to live with a
relative. A woman encouraged her nephew, who lived with
her family at the time of her arrest, to move out after she
started wearing an ankle bracelet. She did not want to put
him at risk.
So he left because, since I have [an ankle] bracelet and
supposedly they’ve been calling a lot and are going to
come and check on me, I imagine he had to have
thought, “It’s better if I go.” And I told him, “It’s OK.
I don’t want to put you in a bad position.”
Other families felt that they had to keep moving in
order to avoid problems with immigration. One mother
was deported and returned to the United States to be
reunited with her husband and two children. Shortly after
she returned, immigration officers came to the house.
After that, she went to live with her adult son for two
months for fear of them coming back again, even after her
husband reassured her that the immigration officers
thought she was still in Mexico. When she moved back in
with her family briefly, immigration officers came back
again, but she did not open the door. On that day, she
moved back in with her son and had a friend pick up her
children from school.
Loss of homeownership. Not surprisingly, the large
majority of families in our sample rented their homes, but
eight families across four of our sites—all but Miami and

TABLE 3.2. Short-Term Food Hardship in Households Following Arrest

Response

Could not afford
enough food
(n ‫ ؍‬51)

Were not able to eat
(could not afford)
balanced meals
(n ‫ ؍‬50)

Reduced size
of meals
(n ‫ ؍‬50)

Ate less than
before
(n ‫ ؍‬49)

Experienced
hunger
(n ‫ ؍‬50)

Never
Sometimes
Frequently

14
21
16

20
14
16

18
14
18

21
12
16

39
7
4

Source: Urban Institute surveys of families in study sites.
Notes: These results are combined from 54 households across four sites—Van Nuys (27), Postville (17), Arkansas (6), and Miami (4)—interviewed two to six months after parental
arrest. The total numbers of responses across the columns are different due to incomplete data and refusals to answer. All households included in the table answered at least four of
the five items. One household is not included at all due to insufficient data.

Grand Island—owned homes and paid a mortgage prior
to the parental arrest. All of these families struggled to
make mortgage payments in the aftermath of the arrest,
because of the loss of the main breadwinners’ income.
Half of the families had actually lost their homes by the
time they were interviewed. This devastated families who
had managed to establish themselves in the community
and provide what they expected would be more substantial
stability for their children. One mother explained how
crushed her 5-year-old daughter was when she realized
that the family had to sell the home they had lived in for
seven years. “When my daughter saw the ‘For Sale’ sign, she
started to cry and she said to me, ‘I don’t want my house to be
sold, it’s our house.’ ”
One mother in Arkansas lost her home when the father of
her two sons, from whom she was estranged, took advantage
of her six-month detention to refinance her three-bedroom
home in his name, gain custody of their children, and move
into her house with his new wife. When the mother was
finally released and sent home on a Greyhound bus, she did
not have anywhere to stay. Some friends offered a place for
a while, but then they got tired of this arrangement. So,
she stayed in a motel until she was able to find a roommate. The worst part of losing her home was that she
could not apply to regain custody of her children because
she did not have anywhere for them to live. “I can’t, I don’t
have a place to . . . for them to be with me right now.” She
was only able to see her sons a couple of times a week.
“Sunday is my day off so I see them from two to eight, eight
thirty. And then between the week I go and see them for a
couple of hours because they live [here] and I live [there] and
you know with all the gas prices I barely have money for gas to
take me to work.”

Food Hardship
Most of our study families had difficulties affording food
after immigration enforcement.56 In the four sites where
we interviewed families two to six months after a raid or
arrest (table 3.2), nearly three out of five of these households reported difficulty paying for food “sometimes” or
“frequently” immediately following detention; nearly two
out of three reduced the size of their meals; over half ate
less than before; and more than a fifth reported having
experienced hunger because they did not have enough to
eat, including four respondents who said they experienced
hunger frequently.
These findings are far above national norms (table 3.3)
and show considerable distress in our study sample. Well
over half of the parents we interviewed said that, at least
once in the past month, the food that they bought did not
last, they could not afford to buy more food, or they could
not afford to eat balanced meals. This contrasts with fewer

56

Our study employed four questions from a broadly used food
security scale developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
We did not employ the full scale, so we do not report “food security” results here but instead discuss the individual items. Moreover,
we cannot directly ascribe difficulties affording food to the raids or
arrests, although we know that most of these families experienced
severe drops in income following these events. We did not ask food
security questions about the period before the arrest, so we cannot
gauge how much of the food hardship pre-dated immigration
enforcement. We rely mostly on our qualitative data from the interviews to interpret the results from these food security items. For the
full scale, refer to Mark Nord and Gary Bickel, 2002, Measuring
Children’s Food Security in U.S. Households, 1995–99, Food
Assistance and Nutrition Research Report No. (FANRR25) 38,
Washington, DC: USDA, Economic Research Service.
31

TABLE 3.3. Short- and Long-Term Food Hardship in Households Following Arrest
Time Elapsed (UI Sample)

Food hardship itema

Less than 6 months
(n ‫ ؍‬54)b

More than 6 months
(n ‫ ؍‬46)c

Nationald

72.5%
60.0%
64.0%
57.1%
22.0%

82.6%
78.3%
60.9%
57.8%
28.3%

12.4%
11.3%
6.5%
6.5%
3.3%

Food bought didn’t last and respondent didn’t have money to get more
Respondent couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals
Adults cut the size of meals or skipped meals
Respondent ate less than felt he/she could
Respondent was hungry but couldn’t afford to eat

Source: Urban Institute surveys of families in study sites.
Note: Actual numbers for individual items may sometimes be lower because of refusals or missing data.
a. Share reporting condition “sometimes” or “frequently” within the past month.
b. Includes first interviews from families in Van Nuys (27) and Postville (17), as well as interviews with families from Arkansas (6) and Miami (4).
c. Includes follow-up interview in Van Nuys (12) and Postville (11) as well as interviews from four other sites: New Bedford (9), Grand Island (8), Miami (4), and Arkansas (2)—
interviewed more than nine months after parental arrest. 22 of the families were also interviewed in the first round in Van Nuys and Postville.
d. These statistics come from Mark Nord, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson, 2008, Household Food Security in the United States, 2007, ERR-66, Washington, DC: USDA,
Economic Research Service.

than one in eight American families being affected by these
conditions. More frequently than other U.S. families, our
parents also reported that they cut the size of meals or
skipped meals, ate less than they felt they could, or felt
hungry but did not eat because they could not afford to
buy food. The parents we spoke with were seven times
more likely to report experiencing hunger than the U.S.
average.
The families interviewed across all of the sites in our
sample more than six months after arrests reported difficulties securing enough food over the long term (table 3.4).
Among the families in the study sample—which includes
22 follow-up interviews—these difficulties generally persisted and sometimes increased. In the long term, a higher
percentage of parents reported that the food they bought
did not last, they could not afford to eat balanced meals, or

they endured hunger because they could not afford to buy
food.
There was some variation in responses to these questions across the study sites, with the highest reports of food
insufficiency and hunger in the nonworksite raid sites:
Miami and Rogers-Springdale. Haitian families in Miami
reported the highest levels on each of the five food hardship
measures, particularly hunger. All nine families interviewed
indicated they went hungry and were more likely to report
that they “frequently” experienced food hardship. For example, a Haitian single mother who was arrested at home one
morning three months before the interview said, “Not only
did we have to cut the size of our meals we had to skip meals,
because it’s not whenever you want a meal that you can have a
meal.” Another single mother, caring for her own two children as well as her niece, reported great difficulty finding

TABLE 3.4. Long-Term Food Hardship in Households Following Arrest

Response

Could not afford
enough food
(n ‫ ؍‬46)

Were not able to eat
(could not afford)
balanced meals
(n ‫ ؍‬46)

Reduced size
of meals
(n ‫ ؍‬46)

Ate less
than before
(n ‫ ؍‬45)

Experienced
hunger
(n ‫ ؍‬46)

Never
Sometimes
Frequently

8
18
20

10
18
18

18
8
20

19
16
10

33
10
3

Source: Urban Institute surveys of families in study sites.
Notes: These results are combined from 46 households across six sites—Van Nuys (12), Postville (11), New Bedford (9), Grand Island (8), Miami (4), and Arkansas (2)—interviewed
more than nine months after parental arrest. 22 of the families were also interviewed in the first round in Van Nuys and Postville. The total numbers of responses for questions may
be lower due to a missing response. 45 households answered each of the five items.

32

work since her work permit expired three years earlier. With
her brother deported, things have only gotten harder, since
she could no longer count on his income to help put food
on the table. She said,
The kids have a lot of problems because sometimes I
have five dollars for whole week and the kids only have
noodles and the kids will only eat noodles. And I’ll buy
a gallon of water and they’ll drink water and just go to
bed like that.
Even so, food hardship was by no means limited to
Miami. A family from Postville with two children said that
they cut their food purchases from about $180 per week to
between $30 and $50 per week in the first few months
after the raid. The mother described their situation: “It was
really hard because since then, we’ve been here but it isn’t easy at
all because we can’t work and I would like to work and, well, so
that my daughters can have what they ask for because . . . Now
we don’t buy . . . fruit, yogurt, and all those things.
We don’t buy [them] because . . . we can [only] buy the
necessities.” A mother of four in Postville explained to her
children when they asked for some variety in their meals
after the raid, “We don’t have it right now. Eat this now,
even if it’s beans. You know the situation we’re in. I can’t
buy you everything.” In Arkansas, one interviewee related
how her sick mother’s health has been compromised by
food hardship.
My mother, she has an illness, she has arthritis, and she
has to take pills. But the pills make her sick to her stomach. So, she has to drink a lot of milk and sometimes
she’s had to go without so that the baby
can have it.
For families in Postville that were interviewed twice, food
hardship abated for some by the time of the second interview
nine months after the raids. In Postville, the number of families reporting milder forms of food hardship declined, and by
the second interview no families reported hunger. Although
some families in Postville continued to struggle to get enough
food to eat on a regular basis, they fared better than families
in our other sites because of sustained assistance from
St. Bridget’s Church and local organizations.
Several families talked about juggling between food and
other basic needs. In Arkansas, a mother of four children,
ages 2, 8, 13, and 16, who was picked up for a traffic violation six months prior to the interview said that it had

become untenable to make ends meet. She said, “It doesn’t
last. If I’m going to pay the bills, I have nothing for food.”
Another mother of two toddlers ages 1 and 2 who was given
an ankle bracelet during a home raid four months earlier said
that she constantly negotiated which bills to pay. “Sometimes
we don’t pay the water so we can buy food. Sometimes we don’t
pay the insurance so we can buy food. Sometimes we don’t pay
the light so that we can buy food.”
Some parents reported eating less or going without
food so that their children could eat more. A single mother
of three in Van Nuys said that during the first few months,
her children refused to eat dinner because they thought
that there wasn’t enough food for the household. Every
night before starting to eat dinner they asked her if there
was enough food for everyone. She told them constantly
that there was enough, and she would eat less herself so
they would have more to eat. She would say, “Sons, eat,”
and they would respond, “Mommy, you eat first.” Once she
saw how concerned they were over her reduced portions,
she began to hide her food intake as much as she could
from them. After she obtained a work permit and began
working work again, she took salads for lunch because she
wanted to save the rest of the food for the family dinner.
Another father of two in Van Nuys said that he and his
partner regularly ate less so that his two boys, ages 12 and
8, would not notice the scarcity as much. He said with
some hesitation,
Up until now, the boys—we, as adults, well, I—the
truth, yes, I’ve endured, well, sometimes I haven’t
eaten, um, one day, two days, for the same reason that
I’ve had to reduce my expenses, but we try to manage
so the boys . . . don’t go through that.
One of the most common strategies for stretching food
was to buy less expensive items, cheaper ingredients, or
more processed foods to save on food costs. A mother in
Grand Island said,
So, I can change their meals to something more
economical but not start measuring things out, understand? I think that would be very cruel, that you say
“ay—only this or only that.” I prefer to change the
menu and make it cheaper.
Several parents mentioned that buying cheaper food
was a lot harder at a time when the prices of basics like milk,
eggs, and rice were increasingly expensive.
33

Families’ Coping Strategies
and Forms of Assistance after Arrests
Employment after Parental Arrests
During this difficult adjustment period when many of the
arrested parents were unable to work, spouses often took
on extra hours to help make ends meet. One interviewee
reported that her husband was working 12-hour shifts, from
3:00 in the afternoon to 3:00 in the morning. “More hours,
overtime. He works from three in the afternoon to three in the
morning . . . and he tries to make sacrifices, I’ll tell you, because
there are expenses, lots of expenses.” Another interviewee said
her husband sometimes worked double shifts twice a week.
“He stays to work a double shift and nowadays that’s how it’s
been, only him working. Sometimes two times he has to stay to
work a double shift, two times a week and it’s hard because
eight hours and you’re really worn out and you still have to
work more, but like he says, it’s a necessity.”
In a few families, the parents decided to separate geographically so that one of them could find employment. One
family separated after the children’s mother was arrested and
the father could no longer find work in Postville. He moved
to a nearby town where he found work to help support the
wife and children, but because of his work schedule he rarely
visited and could no longer take as much of a role in helping
with the children. Their older son regularly asked about him
and worried he would be arrested, too. By the time we
returned to Postville for the second round of interviews with
families, the father had returned after eight months and was
living with his family. In Grand Island, a father raising two
children on his own because his wife was deported lost his
job a few months later and could not find a job nearby with
a good enough income. He took a job working at an energy
plant that was six hours away, and was only able to come
home three days per week. During the months his wife was
in detention, the teenage children mostly stayed home alone
and on occasion were looked after by relatives.
In the long term, many workers who had been arrested
found ways to go back to work because of economic necessity. Most of the parents who worked after their arrest found
themselves in the informal labor market to avoid being
detected by ICE again. One father in Grand Island said he
mostly worked mowing lawns and doing odd jobs, though
he could easily have found steady factory work, because he
didn’t want to do anything that might complicate his legal
case. “I want to work. I do house repairs here and there. But I
34

don’t want to get a job at a company because I don’t want to
ruin my case.” The most commonly held informal jobs
included house and office cleaning, babysitting for relatives
and friends, doing odd jobs and construction as day laborers, recycling, selling raffle tickets, and making and selling
handicrafts. One couple in Van Nuys reported working
more than eight hours a day collecting bottles and cans for
recycling and buying and reselling used items. “We sell
dishes, clothing, appliances, like . . . and we walk around gathering up aluminum and plastic containers to sell.” Though
these activities helped families piece together some muchneeded income for their families, they could not adequately
replace the full-time steady wages that many had earned
prior to their detention.
A small number of respondents had received work permits, due to their cooperation with ICE in testifying against
their employers or successful appeals of deportation on other
grounds. However, even this group sometimes had difficulty
finding work. At the time of their second follow-up interview, five detainees in Postville and Van Nuys had been
released and obtained work permits. However, only one of
them had actually been able to find work because of the economic conditions in their communities. One woman in Van
Nuys told us that she had taken two different temporary
jobs and looked for months before finally finding a nightshift job, working from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. “The schedule is uncomfortable but because it was stable, I preferred to
stay there for now while things get better, to see what happens.
If I can get a better job, I’ll take it but there aren’t any . . .
Everyone is looking for work and can’t find any.”

Back Pay and Assistance from Former Employers
The initial economic impact of some families’ loss of earned
income during the first weeks after an arrest was mitigated
by the back wages and unused vacation or sick days that
families were able to claim from the arrested workers’
employers. In three of the four worksite raids (Grand Island,
Postville, and Van Nuys), families reported being paid for
back wages and unused vacation or sick days. In Grand
Island, Swift and Company set up a fund disbursed through
local United Way agencies to provide rent and other assistance for a number of months after the raid.57 Several of our
57

Swift and Company did this for employees arrested in all six
plants that were raided by ICE in December 2006.

respondents in Grand Island told us that their employer
made payments of $200 a month for three months
following the raid.
In addition to back wages, one worker in Van Nuys
was able to get her employer, Micro Solutions, to pay out
disability benefits for a repetitive motion injury that she
incurred while operating a drill at the work site. At the time
of our follow-up interview more than a year after the raid,
she was still receiving biweekly checks and regular medical
treatment for the injury, although these payments were
about to expire at that time.
In Grand Island, local community organizations were
largely successful in getting the final paychecks and vacation
pay for immigrants arrested in the raid there, but getting
final paychecks for arrested workers in Postville was not an
easy undertaking. Staff at St. Bridget’s Church spent a considerable amount of time pursuing Agriprocessors to obtain
final paychecks, and then had difficulty getting local banks
to cash them. The check-cashing problem became so severe
that parish staff had to cash them in their own names. “They
didn’t want to cash their checks at the bank either. Sister Mary
or the priest, I believe they were cashing checks for several people
because they [the banks] didn’t want to cash them.”
In instances where people were not arrested in a worksite raid, families generally had more difficulty getting final
paychecks. One Arkansas woman explained that four weeks
after her brother-in-law’s detention and deportation, his
employer still had not paid back wages to the workers’ families. She retained a lawyer because the employer, who was a
subcontractor for a larger company, wanted to keep the
money for himself and thought that the families would not
or could not do anything about it. “The man . . . played
dumb when it all happened because he thought that the families
wouldn’t do anything about it . . . He was always a little harsh
because he didn’t want to . . . he wanted to keep their money.”

Assistance from Family and Friends
More than three of every four families in our sample
reported receiving some sort of support from their networks
of family and friends. As discussed earlier, this often meant
moving in with friends or family or having others move in
with them to pool resources. One interviewee described her
extended family helping each other by talking, going to
immigration appointments together, sharing money for
gasoline, and offering each other food. Some families even

reported that members of their new households entered the
labor force to help support the household as a whole.
Forty-three families in our sample received direct
material support from their network of family and friends.
Two out of five of these families received support in the
form of cash. One of our respondents related how a friend
of hers went to look for her, gave her money to buy food,
and offered to help her with whatever else she needed.
After about two weeks, I didn’t have any food . . . and
this American friend came looking for me here,
and was cheering me up and he says to me, “Do
you have anything to eat in your house today?” and
I told him yes so I didn’t have to tell him no, I’m
embarrassed, and he pulls sixty dollars out of his bag
and gives it to me and says, “If you need anything,
call me.”
Another one out of six families in our sample received
food assistance from friends or relatives, who often offered
to share everything they had with affected families. One
woman recounted: “My dad brought fish, the basic stuff, milk
and cereal for my kids because we didn’t have any milk . . . and
my sister was working and she said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s OK, take
whatever we have here.’ ” A mother of a 3-year-old in Van
Nuys said that when her daughter aged out of WIC nutrition assistance, a friend whose daughter still received WIC
regularly brought her extra milk.
In some cases, help came from unexpected people. One
woman noted that circumstances had prompted a noncustodial parent to step up to the plate: “For the first time in thirteen years, he took responsibility as a father . . . that is, he’s
taken charge of them and I know that they’re not lacking food,
shelter, a doctor, and all that.” Others reported getting assistance from complete strangers. A father in Arkansas whose
wife was detained said that a neighborhood store owner had
lent them $300 to help them post bail. “He knows us from
when we first got here because we used to go to that store and
buy things there and that’s how he met us. We told him about
the situation and he didn’t think twice [and gave us the
money, saying,] ‘It’s all that I have.’ ” Another woman
related how a school counselor had volunteered to pay the
phone bill for the family so that she could comply with
ICE’s requirement that all detainees released with a bracelet
have a landline.
Informal assistance from friends and family members
was critical in the days and weeks following the raids and
arrests, but was not sustainable for those families needing
35

assistance for longer periods while they waited for parents to
be released from detention or for deportation cases to be
decided. In most cases, the friends or family members providing assistance were themselves low income and could not
afford to help more than once or twice. Additionally, in
three of our sites—Grand Island, New Bedford, and
Postville—the whole immigrant community was affected
economically by the raids and so it was difficult for local
community members to find the necessary resources. One
respondent described how her coworkers made tamales for
her to sell to raise money when she was first detained but
quickly forgot about her as time went on. “All of my coworkers supported me but afterward . . . When this happens they
help you the first few times, ‘We’ll make tamales and you can
sell them.’ But further on they start to forget you need [help]
and you have to find other ways to survive.” Another interviewee said that after all that her friends had done for her family, she was ashamed to ask them for anything else. “I don’t
know. It’s really . . . our friends have, they’re the ones that lent
us little by little [the money] for my bail, so . . . we’re ashamed
to approach them and ask them for even more.”

Assistance from Local Churches
and Community Organizations
More than half of the families we interviewed reported
receiving some type of assistance from a local nonprofit
organization or a church. These types of organizations provided food to almost half of our study families, as well as
rental and utility assistance to one in five families and cash
assistance to one in ten. All of the cash assistance came from
churches, as did the majority of the food, rental, and
utility assistance.
Churches and community organizations played more
prominent roles in assisting families in some sites than in
others. St. Bridget’s Church in Postville provided some
assistance to all of our respondents, with most receiving
ongoing monthly packages of food, cash, rental, and utility
assistance. In fact, St. Bridget’s fully covered rent and utilities
for a few dozen families—including most of our sample—
for more than nine months after the raid there. One
Postville interviewee said that he was more comfortable
accepting help from the church than from friends and family. “A relative told me he’d help with anything I needed and
another friend as well, anything I needed, but . . . you shouldn’t
be asking and asking, those one hundred dollars I would ask
36

for here, at the church.” Most of the families interviewed in
New Bedford received substantial assistance with rent and
utilities for a period of months from a network of community organizations spearheaded by the Massachusetts
Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy coalition (MIRA), while
local United Way agencies provided similar assistance for
most of the families in Grand Island.58 However, by the
time of our second interview for this study, more than a
year after these two raids, these forms of assistance had
ended in both sites.
In Van Nuys, the only other worksite raid, there was
little coordinated response by community organizations to
meet the immediate needs of families. As a result, the assistance that families received was limited to food from local
churches and food banks. Six of the 27 families reported
getting this kind of aid. The only institutional monetary
assistance that families received was from local consulates.
More than a third of families in Van Nuys received cash
assistance from the Mexican or Honduran consulates.
Families in Arkansas and Miami were far less likely to
receive any assistance from churches or community organizations. No families interviewed in Arkansas or Miami
reported receiving such assistance. Without a high-profile
raid to draw attention to the plight of the families of
arrested immigrants, there was no organized response effort
to the arrests in either location.

Public Assistance
As described earlier, food hardship was common in our study
families, and government assistance programs provided crucial aid for many of them. Many parents said they counted on
cash welfare; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
(SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program;59 the
Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and
Children (WIC); free and reduced-price school meals; and in
one case, free meals at a child care center. All but 10 of our
study families were mixed-status families with unauthorized
parents and at least one citizen child. If these families received
welfare or food stamp benefits, they were generally prorated
to include only the citizen children. WIC and school meal
programs are available to all age- and income-eligible chil58

Capps et al., 2007.
Throughout the rest of the report, we refer to SNAP benefits using
their older, more commonly understood name: “food stamps.”
59

TABLE 3.5. Receipt of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Food Stamps by All Study Families
Less Than 6 Months after Arrest
TANF
Site
All
Grand Island
New Bedford
Van Nuys
Postville
Miami
Arkansas

More Than 6 Months after Arrest

Food stamps

TANF

Food stamps

Yes

%

Yes

%

Yes

%

Yes

%

8
–
–
0
8
0
0

15%
–
–
0%
47%
0%
0%

14
–
–
1
12
1
0

26%
–
–
4%
71%
25%
0%

14
5
4
0
5
0
0

27%
42%
40%
0%
45%
0%
0%

25
6
5
3
9
2
0

48%
50%
50%
25%
82%
50%
0%

Source: Urban Institute surveys of families in study sites.
Notes: Short-term percentages are based on data from 54 households and exclude one interview due to insufficient data. Long-term percentages are based on data from 52 households.
For Grand Island and New Bedford, “–” refers to “not applicable” because these data were not collected for our earlier study, Paying the Price, and are therefore not available for the
current report.

dren, regardless of their citizenship or legal status.
Receipt of nutrition assistance. Nutrition support programs were the most widely used before the arrests. WIC
was the most common. In fact, more than 60 percent of
study families with children under age 5 received WIC prior
to parental arrest. About one-quarter of families with
school-age children received free or reduced-price lunches
for those children before parental arrest. One mother in
Postville said that her two children were better fed during
the week because they got breakfast and lunch at school.
On the weekends, they only ate twice a day. After parental
arrest, WIC and free or reduced-price lunch participation
remained largely the same as before.
Receipt of public benefits. Receipt of Temporary Assistance
for Needy Families (TANF) benefits and food stamps was
uncommon before arrest but increased somewhat afterward.
Before parental arrest, about one in ten families reported having ever received TANF benefits. Among families interviewed
within six months of arrest, this proportion had increased to a
little more than one in seven (table 3.5).60
Families which had no previous experience with welfare
benefits took up TANF benefits, but only in half of our
sites: Postville, Grand Island, and New Bedford (table 3.6).
60 While unauthorized immigrants are ineligible for TANF, U.S.born citizen children are eligible for what is commonly referred to
as “child-only” TANF benefits. Child-only benefits are lower than
they would be if the whole family qualified, and unauthorized parents with children receiving child-only benefits do not qualify for
support services such as child care and employment referral that
other TANF parents may receive.

In these sites, churches and community organizations
developed coordinated response efforts, and state social
services agencies were heavily involved. In Postville, a
Spanish-English bilingual worker from a nearby Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) office had developed a good working relationship with the immigrant
community and already had a substantial caseload of
Agriprocessors workers and families before the raid. She
and other Iowa DHS employees came to St. Bridget’s
Church to screen for eligibility and take applications several times after the raid. The regional director of Nebraska
Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), herself a bilingual immigrant, worked hard to connect affected
families with public benefits after the Grand Island raid.
MDSS was involved in obtaining the release of two dozen
parents from detention following the New Bedford raid and
coordinated relief efforts with MIRA and local organizations that distributed humanitarian assistance.
No families in Arkansas, Miami, or Van Nuys took up
cash assistance after the raid, including three families who
had used TANF at some point in the past. The state and
county social services agencies in these locations were,
according to our interviews, uninvolved in any relief efforts
following raids or arrests and generally disconnected from
local immigrant communities.
Food stamp receipt was higher than TANF everywhere and mostly showed the same pattern as TANF use,
with the highest use rate in Postville (87 percent). This
pattern suggests a stronger connection between state social
service agencies and immigrant communities, as well as
37

TABLE 3.6. Receipt of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Food Stamps by Previously Unenrolled Eligible Families
Short-Term Interviews (26 Months after Arrest)
TANF
Site
All
Grand Island
New Bedford
Van Nuys
Postville
Miami
Arkansas

Long-Term Interviews (9–15 Months after Arrest)

Food stamps

TANF

Food stamps

Yes

%

Yes

%

Yes

%

Yes

%

8

16%
–
–
0%
50%
0%
0%

11

24%
–
–
0%
71%
33%
0%

12
3
4
0
5
0
0

26%
38%
40%
0%
45%
0%
0%

23
4
5
3
9
2
0

50%
50%
50%
25%
75%
67%
0%

0
8
0
0

0
10
1
0

Source: Urban Institute surveys of families in study sites.
Note: Nine households in the sample used welfare at some point before arrest and 14 used food stamps. For Grand Island and New Bedford, “–” refers to “not applicable” because
these data were not collected for our earlier study, Paying the Price, and are therefore not available for the current report.

greater involvement by these agencies in the response
efforts in these sites.
Attitudes, fears, and other barriers to public assistance
receipt. Even though many families sought public assistance
following parental arrest, some of our study respondents
expressed a general aversion to public benefits, most notably
food stamps and TANF. Some respondents said they felt
they were already indebted to the government and did not
want to be a burden.

Other families did not apply for food stamps, TANF in
particular, because they feared that it would cause problems
for them in the future if and when they were able to fix their
immigration status. One mother confided:

Because my husband was one of those people who preferred to work, he used to say that he didn’t want to
be a burden for this government. We already owe
because we owe taxes, we owe hospitals, but we wanted
to give back. That’s why he struggled so hard. We
wanted to get our papers and be able to work, and
pay all of those debts because we didn’t want to take
advantage of this government, and we have bills but
we’re going to pay.

Another respondent agreed: “We haven’t wanted to get
mixed up in that so we don’t jeopardize [things] in the future
if we have the chance to fix our papers.”
Still other families feared that the information they
needed to provide in order to receive public assistance could
be accessed by ICE. A Grand Island respondent related
the story of a woman who was found by immigration
through information she had given to a WIC office. “I’d
been hearing . . . women talk . . . that they [immigration] had
gone to pick up a young girl . . . because of WIC. . . .
Immigration got her information from WIC.” Another
respondent was particularly wary of applying for food
stamps because both she and her husband had to be
fingerprinted as part of the application process.
Some families reported believing that they risked losing
custody of their children by signing up for public benefits.
One mother in Grand Island admitted that she thought her
children would be taken away if she chose to leave the
United States. “I used to think that . . . at the time that you
went back to your country, they would take your children away
because you’re receiving help from the government.” Another

Some indicated that their primary motivation in immigrating was the opportunity to work hard to support their
families and that they preferred labor to handouts. One
woman stated that she wanted to prove to immigration
that she was not looking for any handouts, no matter how
difficult things might be:
I want them to see that I’m not a burden for anybody, I
don’t want to ask for anything, I know people can give
you [things] but I won’t ask even if I’m drowning, even
now that I have the water coming up to here, I haven’t
done it.
38

I’ve always been told that whoever . . . when someone
receives a check from the government . . . when you
want to fix your papers . . . that causes problems. So
my husband says we’ll only get it when we really need
it.

mother thought that she would be surrendering the custody
rights for her son if she applied for aid. “I told them no
because I was scared that in the long term that . . . maybe it
was something, like I said, my ignorance . . . that they could
take away my son and my custody . . .” Yet another mother
didn’t want to enroll in any kind of public assistance
because she believed this would give the government the
right to take her children away if she spanked them:
I was afraid. I said no because supposedly if I scold my
children or spank them . . . This was my thinking, if
one day I hit them, the government won’t have any
reason to take them away from me if I’ve never taken
money from them.
Finally, some respondents related confusing or frustrating prior experiences applying for public benefit programs,
especially food stamps and TANF. One mother had applied
once for food stamps but was very confused, because she was
first told she would qualify but was told later that she did
not. The process was so frustrating that she never appealed
the decision.
I went to the place and filled out the papers and
everything, and they told me that they would let me
know by mail. It was really strange because at
the beginning . . . they sent me something and made
it seem like I qualified, but days afterward, they sent
me another notice saying I didn’t qualify . . . and
that I had to send them I don’t know what . . . well,
I went in again, and they said that they
were going to mail me an answer and finally they
told me that I didn’t qualify . . . I didn’t understand . . . I wasn’t going to go in anymore. I didn’t
like that.
Even with these concerns, many families ended up
applying for public assistance after the raids or arrests
because of their low income, food hardship, and other acute
economic needs. In some cases respondents felt better able
to access benefits because people they trusted (e.g., clergy,
social workers, educators, and community advocates) were
able to reassure them that receiving the assistance they
needed and their children were entitled to would not
harm them. Many families in Postville, who depended
primarily on donations from St. Bridget’s Church, felt a
responsibility to sign up for public benefits to relieve the
burden on the church and the local community. In other

cases, families had to put away their misgivings about
seeking aid and apply out of pure economic necessity.
One mother whose husband had been working a lot of
overtime to compensate for the income they lost when she
was detained said, “Seeing myself in a situation where I
needed to help my husband a little, I wanted to do it.”
*****
The stories described in this chapter detail the economic
hardships that families with children faced after family
members were arrested in a worksite raid or other immigration
enforcement action. Almost all of the families lost workers
in the raid, either because they were detained and deported
or because a parent who was released was prohibited from
working. Their incomes declined substantially, leading to
increased economic hardship and dependency on charity
and government assistance. A large majority of families
experienced significant difficulty paying for food and a few
parents experienced hunger. Many families had difficulty
paying their bills, and their housing situations, already
crowded, became more crowded and unstable. Hardship
was prolonged for many families either because it took
several months for parents to be released from detention
or—in many cases—because attempts to contest deportation took months or even more than a year to adjudicate.
In the face of extreme economic hardship, in many
cases, families pieced together the resources they could to
provide food and shelter for their children. Well-coordinated
relief efforts that included links to government agencies
helped provide needed housing, cash, and food assistance
in three of the sites—Grand Island, New Bedford, and
Postville—but in other sites families largely relied on
informal networks of friends and family members or
fended for themselves.
The next chapter of the report describes how children
fared emotionally and behaviorally during these difficult
periods following raids and other arrests. Child development
research suggests that, in addition to children’s experience of
their parents’ arrest and detention, the consequences
described in this chapter—food hardship, housing instability, and prolonged economic deprivation—pose risks to
children’s development, behavior, and success in school.
These findings provide the backdrop for the next chapter
which examines the well-being and behavior of the children
in these families.

39

4. CONSEQUENCES FOR CHILDREN:
CHILD BEHAVIORS, CHANGES,
AND ADJUSTMENTS
his chapter continues to address the second set of research questions, regarding the specific effects of immigration enforcement on children, by focusing on changes in children’s behavior and emotional well-being. To describe behavior changes,
we draw on interviews with parents and other family respondents. In our previous study, Paying the Price, we described
changes in children’s behavior in general terms, but in the current study we consistently documented changes in specific types of
behavior. Based on advice from the child development and methods scholars on our advisory board, we used open-ended probes
that borrow key items from a number of instruments designed to gauge child well-being by documenting instances of externalizing
and internalizing behavior: changes in eating and sleeping patterns, crying or whining, fear, clinginess, withdrawal, anxiety, aggression, and anger. We focused particularly on children’s adjustment to their parents’ arrest and related consequences, including separations of uncertain lengths, economic hardship, housing instability, and continuing uncertainty about their fate in the limbo
period that followed arrests.

T

Changes in Children’s Behavior
Parents in this study reported observing significant behavioral changes, most but not all of which were adverse, in
their children. Each family had a unique set of circumstances before parental arrest, and there were differences
across families in their arrest and detention experiences, as
described in the prior chapters. Nevertheless, children in
each of the sites exhibited significant behavior changes
following their parent’s arrest.
We organize the analysis below in terms of short-term
and long-term effects. The short-term analysis includes
interviews conducted within six months of parental arrest.
These interviews include first wave interviews in two sites
(Van Nuys and Postville) conducted about two months after
worksite raids and making up a majority of the short-term
cases we studied. Also included in the short-term analysis
are some observations from interviews conducted with families that experienced home raids or arrests by local police (in
Miami and Rogers-Springdale) within the six months before

our interview. This short-term group includes 133 children
from 55 families in these four sites.
The long-term analysis is based on second wave
interviews in Grand Island, New Bedford, Van Nuys,
and Postville, more than nine months after the worksite
raids in those locations. Interviews with families that
had experienced arrests in Miami and Rogers-Springdale
more than nine months before our visits are also included
in our long-term sample for a total of 115 children in
52 families.

Short-Term Changes
Table 4.1 summarizes the most frequent child behavioral
changes described by respondents interviewed in the short
term (within six months of a parent’s arrest). Eating and
sleeping changes were the most common effects in the
short term, followed by crying and feeling afraid. Anxiety,
withdrawal, and clinginess, while a bit less common, were
still problems reported among many of the children.
41

TABLE 4.1. Children Experiencing Behavior Changes in Four Sites (Short-Term Interviews)
Age group
0 to 5
6 to 11
12 to 17
All ages

Eating

Sleeping

Crying

Afraid

Anxious

Withdrawn

Clingy

Angry or aggressive

62%
81%
61%
68%

55%
69%
79%
66%

61%
60%
57%
60%

43%
61%
60%
54%

38%
46%
43%
42%

16%
51%
62%
42%

42%
42%
35%
40%

36%
37%
34%
36%

Source: Urban Institute surveys of families in study sites.
Notes: The short-term interviews were conducted within six months of a worksite raid or other form of parental arrest. Data were collected on 133 children from 55 families in
4 sites—Arkansas, Miami, Van Nuys, and Postville. All changes were reported by responding parents or other adult caregivers, and the frame of reference for the changes is prior to
parental arrest. The percentages exclude missing data and employ different denominators, ranging from 92 to 120 (out of 133 children)

Children age 6 to 11 exhibited the most frequent
changes in eating habits. Parents reported that these children,
along with adolescents (ages 12 to 17), became noticeably
withdrawn more often than younger children. The fact that
younger children are less able to express their emotions in
words may explain these apparent differences to some extent.
In general, boys and girls responded similarly after their
parent’s arrest with two exceptions. First, girls cried more
often than boys, though nearly half of all boys and male
adolescents also cried in response to their parent’s arrest.
Second, in the few households where children assumed
additional responsibilities, girls and young women more
often stepped in to help their parents.
Parents reported many instances in which children exhibited multiple behavioral changes (table 4.2). Children over
age five exhibited a higher rate of multiple behavioral changes,
which may attest to their ability to communicate and express
their feelings more outwardly than younger children.

TABLE 4.2. Children Experiencing Multiple Behavior
Changes in Four Sites (Short-Term Interviews)

Age group
0 to 5
6 to 11
12 to 17
All ages

3 or more
changes

4 or more
changes

5 or more
changes

57%
76%
74%
68%

45%
65%
59%
56%

30%
48%
44%
40%

Source: Urban Institute surveys of families in study sites.
Notes: The short-term interviews were conducted within six months of a worksite raid
or other form of parental arrest. Data were collected on 133 children from 55 families
in 4 sites—Arkansas, Miami, Van Nuys, and Postville. All changes were reported by
responding parents or other adult caregivers, and the frame of reference for the
changes is prior to parental arrest. The percentages exclude missing data and employ
different denominators, ranging from 92 to 120 (out of 133 children).

42

Children in our short-term sample whose household
structure and primary caregiving relationships changed after
an arrest were more likely to experience changes in eating,
crying, and fear, compared with children whose caregiving
did not change. Among children in families that did not
remain intact, about three out of four experienced changes
in eating habits, about two-thirds began crying, and about
half exhibited fear. Only about a third of children in our
sample remained in intact families (i.e., remained with both
their parents or their single parent). Children of intact families also exhibited similar changes, though much less frequently: about half experienced changes in eating habits,
about half cried more than before, and about a third felt
afraid. In addition, children of intact families also exhibited
multiple behavioral changes less frequently than other children. Although parents in all sites reported sleeping and eating problems and fear in their children, children exhibited
these changes less frequently among intact families, especially in Van Nuys where a large number of families were
reunited on the same day.
In addition to household changes, children whose parents were arrested at home exhibited multiple behavioral
changes more often than children whose parents were
arrested elsewhere. Since Arkansas and Miami conducted
home arrests, children in these two sites comprised most of
our sample of children whose parents were arrested at home.
Eleven families experienced home raids, including four in
Miami, four in Arkansas, two in Van Nuys, and one in
Grand Island. In almost all cases, at least one child witnessed his or her parent’s arrest. Although home raids comprised a relatively small number of cases in the sample,
respondents reported some of the more noticeable and outward signs of children’s behavioral changes among those who
witnessed the arrest.

Long-Term Changes
We returned to Grand Island, New Bedford, Van Nuys,
and Postville more than nine months after raids in those
locations; several of the families we interviewed in Miami
and Rogers-Springdale had experienced parental arrest more
than nine months before our visits there. Over time, the
number and frequency of parents’ reports of behavioral
changes remained relatively high, but they did not become
more severe for most children, and some children seemed to
adjust somewhat in the longer term. Some of the more frequent behavior changes (eating, sleeping, crying, feeling
afraid, and anxiety) seem to have moderated somewhat by
the time of our long-term interviews. But other behaviors
that were less frequent during the short-term (withdrawn
and angry/aggressive behaviors) persisted at the same or
higher levels in the longer term (table 4.3).
Children over age five continued to be withdrawn more
often than younger children in the long term, and children
age 6 to 11 continued to have frequent disruptions to their
eating habits. Girls and young women (rather than their
brothers) usually continued assuming responsibilities at
home. However, compared with the short term, parents
reported fewer instances of multiple behavior changes in the
long term (table 4.4).
Similar to short-term changes in children’s behavior, the
changes reported at least nine months after arrest were more
frequent among households where parents had been detained
longer than a month and where parenting and caregiving
responsibilities changed. Among children whose families did
not remain intact or were separated longer than one month,
some behavioral changes continued to be more frequent in
the long run. For instance, children who did not see their
parents within a month of arrest exhibited more frequent
changes in sleeping habits, anger, and withdrawing from fam-

TABLE 4.4. Children Experiencing Multiple Behavior
Changes in Six Sites (Long-Term Interviews)

Age group

3 or more
changes

4 or more
changes

5 or more
changes

21%
49%
48%
36%

13%
33%
39%
25%

8%
28%
22%
18%

0 to 5
6 to 11
12 to 17
All ages

Source: Urban Institute surveys of families in study sites.
Notes: The long-term interviews were conducted at least nine months after a worksite
raid or other form of parental arrest. Data were collected on 115 children from 52 families in 6 sites—New Bedford, Grand Island, Arkansas, Miami, Van Nuys, and
Postville. All changes were reported by responding parents or other adult caregivers,
and the frame of reference for the changes is prior to parental arrest. The percentages
exclude missing data and employ different denominators, ranging from 55 to 77 (out
of 112 children).

ily when compared with children who saw their parents a
month or less after arrest. Children separated from at least one
parent for at least one month were also more likely to continue crying in the long term.
The sections below discuss some of the major changes
in children’s behavior and recount families’ experiences. The
examples are organized according to the central behavior
patterns that parents observed.

Eating and Sleeping Changed Frequently
in Tandem
In the short term, families identified disruptions to children’s eating and sleeping as the two most common behavioral changes. Nearly half of the children in our short-term
sample experienced changes in eating and sleeping patterns
in tandem. These patterns were consistent across age groups
(see table 4.1).

TABLE 4.3. Children Experiencing Behavior Changes in Six Sites (Long-Term Interviews)
Age group
0 to 5
6 to 11
12 to 17
All ages

Eating

Sleeping

Crying

Afraid

Anxious

Withdrawn

Clingy

Angry or aggressive

39%
56%
29%
43%

30%
46%
53%
41%

48%
52%
35%
47%

21%
35%
55%
33%

7%
35%
31%
23%

17%
54%
67%
43%

56%
63%
38%
54%

18%
56%
56%
41%

Source: Urban Institute surveys of families in study sites.
Notes: The long-term interviews were conducted at least nine months after a worksite raid or other form of parental arrest. Data were collected on 115 children from 52 families in
6 sites—New Bedford, Grand Island, Arkansas, Miami, Van Nuys, and Postville. All changes were reported by responding parents or other adult caregivers, and the frame of
reference for the changes is prior to parental arrest. The percentages exclude missing data and employ different denominators, ranging from 55 to 77 (out of 112 children).

43

Disruptions to families’ daily routines unsettled children’s regular eating and sleeping patterns. For example, the
lives of two sisters (ages 7 and 9) in Van Nuys changed dramatically. Before the raid, their mother and her partner had
both worked at Micro Solutions. The mother had quit her
job upon hearing rumors of an impending raid and the father
was arrested at the factory. Prior to the raid they maintained a
daily family routine: they would rise early to prepare the kids
for school and then go to work; in the afternoon the girls
returned home and spent time on their homework; in the
evenings the family ate dinner and prepared for the next day.
After the raid, the family’s eating patterns revolved around
much more unpredictable work schedules because both parents began working odd jobs to make up for the loss of both
jobs. The girls’ mother said, “We used to have a stable schedule,
a stable job. Now the girls have to get up earlier because we all
get up earlier and eat quickly.” The family altered their routine
to make sure both the mother and father could work whenever possible, including in the early morning hours. As a
result, the girls began to get less sleep after the raid. She
described how these adjustments affected her daughters:
We don’t have a schedule anymore. Before, we would
have breakfast at eight in the morning . . . Sometimes
they don’t eat [at home] until five, after they get out of
school, and it’s not because we don’t want to eat but
because that’s our schedule . . .
As a result of disruptions to families’ daily routines,
children spent less time with their parents and caregivers.
Children experienced lower levels of the daily interaction
and support they enjoyed and needed from a parent. For
instance, the younger daughter in the family described above
had been struggling academically at school before the raid.
Her parents’ sustained attention and help with homework
helped her academically. Amid disruptions in family routines
and absent the support her parents used to provide, the
daughter’s progress in school eroded.
Changes in eating and sleeping patterns were also associated with disruptions to families’ living arrangements and the
increased housing instability described in chapter 3. For example, when a father of four children (ages 11, 9, 5, and 4) was
detained in Postville, his partner and their children moved in
with their extended family. As described in the last chapter, the
children’s mother had to sell the family home because they
could no longer afford the payments, to the distress of the children. After the move, the children lived in their grandparents’
44

basement, and their sleeping patterns changed considerably.
Their mother struggled to get them to go to sleep at a regular
time and sometimes had to resort to punishment. At the time
of our visit, her oldest was staying up late and would sometimes leave the house and stay out until 10:30 p.m. The oldest
daughter’s eating habits also changed:
She stopped for a few days after the raid but it was as
a result of what was happening . . . You would tell
her, “Do you want strawberries?” And you take them
to her but she wouldn’t eat them. And she would
always say, “I’m not hungry” . . . and she was the
same at school. At school, they also told me, “She’s not
eating,” “We’re worried that she won’t eat” . . . I beg
her to eat. I tell her, “Go eat.” She loves peanut butter
and jelly sandwiches . . . and I give her one . . . [but]
she lost her appetite. She’s not very hungry.
Despite her mother’s best efforts, the oldest girl’s eating
habits remained irregular and she lost weight.
Children who experienced a change in parenting after
arrest often underwent greater loss of appetite and more
severe sleep disruptions. Children separated from a parent or
caregiver struggled during these periods of great uncertainty
for the family, especially since they did not know if or when
their parent would return. For instance, a 2-year-old boy in
New Bedford was apart from his mother for two weeks. He
did not want to engage with family members who were caring for him. “He had a fever,” said the boy’s aunt who took
care of him. “[He was] sad, very sad. He couldn’t eat. And
when the night came . . . even though we’re family, he would
just watch us . . . He didn’t want to play.” In Arkansas, a
mother was in detention for three days, long enough to
unnerve and disorient her four daughters (ages 16, 13, 8,
and 2). The girls stayed with a family friend who watched
after them while the mother was in jail. “While they were in
the house,” the friend said, “they did not want to eat. During
the days they spent there, I had to beg them to eat. They were
very depressed. They couldn’t sleep because I would wake up at
dawn and the girls were crying.” Even after their mother was
released, the family feared going back to their apartment
because they were afraid the entire family would be arrested.
The youngest became so depressed that she only wanted to
sleep. Her mother thought about taking her daughter to a
specialist to see if anything could be done to help the girl.
Sometimes fears that drive families to go into hiding
affected children’s sleep and eating patterns. For example,
after he was arrested in the Micro Solutions raid, a father sent

his family to live in a nearby county because he feared ICE
would come to his home. His wife and their three children
(ages 6, 5, and 3) moved on the day of the raid. The children
left quickly with a few of their belongings. Two months after
the raid, the children were crying at night on a regular basis
and had trouble sleeping at night. Their father explained,
“They’re afraid. They say that they’re afraid, but when we ask
them, ‘What are you afraid of?’ they say, ‘We’re just afraid.’ We
tell them, ‘Nothing’s going to happen’ . . . [they respond,] ‘But
we’re scared.’ ” The oldest, a 6-year-old, was also bedwetting
immediately after the raid. She had not wet the bed for years.
Since the raid, the family has remained separated and the
children have had less food available to eat. Their father was
unable to secure steady employment to provide financial
support for his family.

Nightmares and Sleepwalking
While discussing sleeping problems, a few parents described
how their child began having nightmares after their parents’
arrest. In each case, the nightmares persisted more than nine
months after the arrest. A mother who spent six months in
detention said her children had not been the same since her
detention. They had trouble focusing at school, and the children fought all the time. Her 13-year-old son complained
that his 8 year-old sister kept him up at night because she was
having nightmares. A father of two (12- and 3-year-old girls)
in Miami was arrested in the spring of 2007 and was
deported within a month. Since then, the youngest girl had
become physically aggressive. A family doctor told her
mother that her behavior stemmed from the instability at
home after her father’s deportation. The youngest girl did
not want to sleep in her own bed, began screaming at
night, and also had nightmares.
In another case, a Postville mother who was arrested and
released described how her 12-year-old son had been affected.
Right after the raid, her children were afraid to answer the
door and became clingy. Her son appeared to be no more
traumatized by the raid than his siblings. However, nine
months after the raid, she was considering taking him to a
counselor because his behavior had become exceedingly worrisome. “He’s, like, traumatized because sometimes he’s sleeping
. . . he gets up screaming at his uncle [who was arrested], someone he loved a lot and he gets up screaming, crying . . . And if you
grab him, he walks and leaves [the house]. Then, when you talk
to him, he wakes up from his sleep.” He repeated similar sleep-

walking episodes almost every night and sometimes woke up
in other people’s rooms.

Crying Regularly
Children often expressed anxiety about their family’s situation
by crying. Parents and caregivers we interviewed reported that
just over half of the children cried frequently after a family
member’s arrest. Among children who experienced changes in
eating or sleeping, nearly half also began crying more often. In
the short term, a third of all children had problems sleeping
and eating and were crying a lot—all at once.
Many of these children cried from the anxiety of being
physically separated from their parents and the uncertainty
associated with the circumstances of that separation. To illustrate, three very young children (2 years old and younger),
whose mother was arrested in Arkansas, showed signs of
missing their mother, who had not been home for a week.
According to the children’s father, the 1-year-old boy regularly “woke up with eyes swollen from crying so much . . . Last
night, between twelve at night and three thirty in the morning I
couldn’t cheer him up. That’s why I missed work, because I spent
all morning with him and, seeing him crying, I didn’t know
what to do.” Their father continued, “I was really sad, and I
was crying in my room, and my little girl [the youngest child]
came in and saw me and then she started to cry . . . She’s very
young and she’s noticing more or less what’s happening.” His
2-year-old daughter had grown more and more anxious,
biting her nails and acting out as never before.
Some children were emotionally sensitive after their
parents returned home and started crying in situations
that would not ordinarily have upset them. For example,
a 7-year-old boy whose father was arrested in Van Nuys
started crying at school when classmates took his toys,
which he had never done before.
Similar to disruptions to sleeping and eating, crying
happened less often over time although it did not disappear
completely more than nine months after arrest. Children who
experienced a long-term separation from a parent cried more
often than children whose parent or family member was
detained and released on the same day.

Increased Fear and Anxiety
Parents reported that about half of the children expressed fear
and anxiety within the first six months after a parent’s arrest.
45

Parents said their children were most afraid of “immigration”
and were anxious that law enforcement would come back to
arrest their family. In the short term, feeling afraid was more
frequent among children who experienced a change in parenting and primary caregiving. In the long term, fear generally
dissipated for most children although it persisted for several
children whose parents were required to wear an EMD.
Parents mentioned that some of the older children
understood the circumstances surrounding their parents’
arrest, and this fed their fears. In Grand Island ICE arrested
a few people in their homes in the days after the initial
worksite raid, and many immigrant families went into hiding for weeks after that. An 8-year-old boy whose mother
was arrested in Grand Island often worried that immigration
would visit their home:
Since my son is older, he understands things well and,
since [the raid], he’s remained afraid. He always
[thinks] that immigration is taking people . . . He
gets nervous, he starts to cry, closes the curtains and
when someone knocks he tells me, “Mommy: immigration” . . . He sees someone walk by and says,
“Mommy, someone went by, hopefully it’s not immigration.” Yesterday, we were getting ready to go to
church—and I don’t know what he saw through the
window—he said, “Mommy, look, there goes someone
from immigration. Who are they looking for?” he
asked me. He has those moments all the time.
A 14-year-old boy whose mother was arrested during
the Postville raid exhibited similar fears. His father was not
arrested because Agriprocessors fired him shortly before the
raid, demanding that he return with new identification if he
wanted to work at the plant again. The boy was afraid that
ICE would come back to Postville to arrest his father. In the
words of the mother, who was arrested at Agriprocessors and
then released, the boy “sometimes says that he’s afraid. My
husband was working and [some people] said that immigration was in Waterloo [a nearby town] and that they had taken
people. He started to cry and said, ‘I hope God doesn’t want
[my father] taken away because I don’t want him to leave.’ ”
Rumors swirled in the community that ICE would come
back for workers who were at home at the time of the raid.
After the raid, fears of a second wave of arrests gripped
many families.
A 14-year-old girl whose mother was detained during a
home raid in Rogers, Arkansas, was afraid that officers
46

would return to the home. Her mother spent a few weeks in
jail. Her mother said, “She made me a note that said that we
should go to another house; that she didn’t want to stay here,
that she was afraid that ICE would come here again.” She and
her siblings worried that ICE would take their parents away
again, as her mother recounted:
If we get [to school] late, after the time we always pick
them up, they worry that we have not gone for them,
that something has happened, so they have this, for
example, the day that [the raid] happened, they all got
picked up at school late. Very late. In addition, [my
daughters] leave school at two forty-five. They got
picked up at school after three thirty. [Ever since, if
we’re late picking them up, they think,] “Why don’t
they get here?” . . . Where were we [they say]—that
they’re worried that we haven’t come.

Generic Fears of Law Enforcement Authorities
In other cases involving raids by federal agents, children did
not differentiate between local police and immigration
authorities. An 8-year-old boy in Van Nuys who witnessed
his father’s arrest by ICE agents—in the family home, at
gunpoint—no longer trusted the police. According to his
father, “They see the police and they run home . . . Sometimes I
go to visit them and, well, I’m there and they come in running
and shutting the door because they say that the police is coming.” A 5-year-old boy whose mother was arrested at the
Swift plant in Grand Island also feared both immigration
and the police. “Like it or not, they take notice of all of this—
[everything we say about] immigration, immigration, immigration. It’s like they also think that they are bad in the eyes of
the police. [My oldest son] is even afraid of the police . . .
When he sees a police officer, he goes away and hides.”

Increased Clinging and Attachment
In the short term, roughly one third of the children
responded to a family member’s arrest by a steady desire for
attention or a compulsion to be constantly in the presence of
their parent or family. In some cases, children became very
clingy toward their parents and often hesitated to be apart
from their family or to open the door to their home. In New
Bedford, a 2-year-old boy seemed initially not to recognize his
mother when she was released after spending four days in
detention. After their reunion, he was perpetually at her side.

He’s more attached to me . . . The day I was released . . .
when I opened the [car] door and he saw me, it was
like he was scared to see me. I don’t know what he
thought. I know that he was scared . . . he started to
cry, to cry and to reach for my husband’s arms. Then,
when I told him . . . that it was me, that is, his mom,
then it was like he kept looking at me . . . Then he
hugged me right there and he started to cry and, well,
he hugged me hard and he just said, “Mommy” . . .
But it was just that moment, since then he has always
been attached to me.
Clinging to parents was also evident in cases where a parent was released on the same day as their arrest. After the single mother of two girls (6 and 2 years old) was arrested and
released the same day, the girls became excessively clingy. The
girls grew up in Postville and were used to going to the park
and walking around town with their mother. After the raid,
both clung closely to their mother when a police car drove by
their home and hesitated to leave the house. Almost immediately after the raid, as she became clingier toward her mother,
the older girl also began asking questions. The girl was too
young to understand the full consequences of the raid, but she
wanted to know what had happened. “She understands,” her
mother said about her inquisitive daughter.
She says, “Tell me the truth. I don’t want you to lie
to me. Don’t cry anymore because we’re with you.
Nothing happened to us but nothing happened to you
either, right?” I told her, “No” . . . I told her I was fine
and not to worry, and I told myself that she would
forget about questioning me.

Withdrawing
While some children became increasingly clingy after the
raids, nearly half of all children—and more than half age 6
and older—showed signs of withdrawal within months of
their parents’ arrests. As their parents recounted, some were
anxious and worried about being arrested, having to move
to another country, and not knowing what might happen to
their family.
Signs of withdrawal were more common among older
children. In a typical example, an only son who was 7 years
old withdrew from others and lost his appetite after his father
was arrested and held in detention for six days before being
released. Before the raid, the boy was active and energetic.
His father said, “When he got home from school, the first thing

he would do is put his bookbag down. He would leave it and go
outside with [a neighbor]. After the raid, he just sleeps.”
A mother whose husband was arrested and detained for
three months in Arkansas mentioned that their oldest son
(13 years old) began withdrawing from the family. “He isolates himself a lot; he almost doesn’t come around with us.” She
attributed this to her son having a difficult time coping after
being apart from his father for so long. The boy withdrew
from everyone except his 15-year-old cousin—whose father
was also detained—as they were lending each other support.
In another example, three brothers became withdrawn
after ICE arrested their mother and her partner, whom the
boys treated as their father. The children’s biological father
had not been involved with the family for years, and the boys
had become very close to their mother’s partner. The mother
was released on the day of the raid, but her partner remained
in detention for five months and then was deported. The
children were told that he had left to find work and that he
would return soon. They did not find out that he had been
detained until much later. His absence affected the boys
deeply. The youngest (4 years old) would not talk to anyone,
and the middle child (5 years old) kept to himself most of the
time after the raid and spent a lot of time in his room. The
oldest (13 years old) became very quiet and withdrawn until
he was able to reconnect with his mother’s partner:
He was sick from depression because he was very
sad . . . and he would tell me, “Don’t talk to me”
and he was like that for almost an entire month.
Now [that happens] less because they talk to my
partner by telephone and . . . we talk with him
sometimes once a week.
Nearly nine months after the arrest, and after the mother’s
partner was deported, the middle child grew more distant,
and his mother described him as being “distracted” and less
affectionate than he used to be before the raid.
In some cases, older children continued to withdraw
after their parents were released and returned home. For
instance, an Arkansas mother was arrested in her home by
the Rogers police. Before the arrest, the mother was able to
talk to her daughter, especially when something was wrong
or when the girl would misbehave and talk back rudely. Her
mother said, “Before I used to say, ‘Watch how you talk to me’
and that was it. [My daughter would reply,] ‘Okay, mom,
sorry.’ ” After the arrest, the girl’s mother found it very difficult to talk to her daughter, who spent long periods of time
in silence and told her mother that nothing was wrong. The
47

48

mother lamented not knowing how the arrest had affected
her daughter. In addition to being more reserved, the girl
began to shout back when her mother would try to ask her
what she was thinking: “Shut up! Don’t talk to me!” Her
mother worried she had lost touch with her daughter, whose
behavior was growing increasingly aggressive.

his mother used to charge her monitor out of the wall. “To
begin with,” his mother said, “he didn’t listen much but ever
since that day he’s gotten worse. He’s more violent and throws
stuff on the floor and hits himself. Sometimes he pulls the thing
from my foot. But I can’t explain it to him because he won’t
understand.”

Aggression and Rebellion

Speech and Other Developmental Difficulties

Anger, aggression, or rebelliousness were reported for onethird of all children in the short-term sample, though the
way parents described the behavior differed according to
the child’s age. Parents of younger children described how their
children began lashing out angrily, while parents of older
children said their children had become disobedient or less
respectful. Angry behavior toward others, for some children,
also became a way to voice their frustrations or redirect their
outrage after their parent’s arrest.
Children’s anger was often directed toward other children. A mother in Arkansas said that her 11-year-old daughter would get angry before the raid but had become very
temperamental since then. “She doesn’t want us to say anything to her . . . she’s almost come to say that we don’t love her
because we don’t let her go wherever she wants.” She quarreled
with her siblings and cousins more often, and with less
provocation than before.
In Iowa, a 4-year-old boy, who had both parents
arrested and one kept in prolonged detention, began quarreling with his older brother:

In addition to the behavioral changes described above, some
parents of young children (under 6 years old) voiced concern
about related changes in their children’s development and
speech patterns. For example, a 3-year-old who witnessed his
mother’s arrest in the family’s home underwent a dramatic
reversal in developmental milestones. Before the arrest, he was
a well-adjusted young boy who had begun learning to feed
and dress himself. His mother said the boy took great pride in
getting ready in the morning and making sure that his shoes,
shirt, vest, and hair all came together just right. Immediately
after the raid, his mother described a boy whose behavior and
demeanor changed almost completely. The boy became very
clingy toward his mother and no longer wanted to do things
for himself.

Before, they played fine, but not anymore; sometimes
they fight. I don’t see them being closer; instead, well,
we used to support each other and when something
would happen my husband would tell them, “Don’t
fight” and now they don’t listen and when the little boy
fights with the older boy he says, “I want my daddy,”
and I don’t like it.

Before this happened, I had bought him a trainer
[toilet] and he sometimes used the trainer to pee but
not anymore. He doesn’t want to go. He goes around
saying that he has to pee and I take him, and he cries
and cries and cries and doesn’t [use the trainer].
Before, he would go to the kitchen table on the bench
and would say, “Give me milk with a straw, milk
with a straw” . . . He used a bottle but he wasn’t as
attached to the bottle—before, he only used it in the
morning and at night, and now he uses it all day. He
sometimes doesn’t want to eat his food . . . Sometimes
I give him a bowl of soup, and [he says,] “I don’t
want soup, I want my teta [bottle].”

In Miami, a 3-year-old girl whose father was arrested and
deported began acting out. She kicked other children, talked
back to her mother, and frequently got angry. Her mother
was surprised because the girl had never behaved that way
before. A 2-year-old boy in Miami whose mother was arrested
at home and fitted with an EMD on her ankle also started
behaving more aggressively, and his anger appeared directed
toward the ankle bracelet. When she charged her bracelet
for two hours each day, her son tried to be patient but soon
wanted his mother’s attention. He sometimes pulled the cord

The boy refused to dress himself and, for the first time,
would often run around the apartment wearing nothing but a
diaper. His older sister, by contrast, withdrew while the son
begged for attention all the time and acted out (e.g., throwing
the television remote control in the garbage, breaking things
in the apartment, putting keys in the microwave) when he did
not get attention. Such a regression in terms of toilet training
and dressing worried his mother.
A few parents also noted increased difficulty in speaking in their children. For example, a 5-year-old girl and a

4-year-old boy whose fathers were arrested at Agriprocessors
and detained for months both developed speech problems.
The girl stuttered slightly before the raid, but this worsened
after her father’s arrest. Her mother said, “She talks with a
little bit of a stutter . . . I’ve noticed that she started doing it
more . . . She gets stuck trying to say a word.” After her father’s
release, her mother said her stuttering was not as noticeable. The boy, on the other hand, developed a stuttering
problem after the raid. He stuttered especially when he was
afraid, at which point he ran to his mother’s side and
clenched her hands.
In another case, a 4-year-old girl had a speech delay that
her mother believes stemmed from witnessing years of domestic abuse. Her mother left the abusive boyfriend, and he
became enraged and turned her in to immigration authorities.
Authorities left the abusive boyfriend in charge of the children
while their mother was in detention for more than two weeks.
When she was released, the girl began to have intensified
speech problems. Her mother said, “Since she was a little girl,
she never spoke perfectly well but as a result of all of this [i.e., her
arrest, the order of removal, and a two-week stay with the
abusive boyfriend], it’s like she went through a reversal in how
she talks.”

School Behavior and Performance
In addition to asking parents about changes in their children’s behavior at home, we asked them to discuss their children’s performance or behavior at school. Two-thirds of the
children in our sample were enrolled in school when we
interviewed their parents. Approximately one-tenth were
enrolled in an early education program (Head Start, prekindergarten), three-quarters in elementary or middle school
(kindergarten through 8th grade), and the rest in high
school. The analysis below relies primarily on parents’ observations about their children’s experiences in school, observations which are more limited than those at home. The
descriptions below also rely on interviews with teachers
and school administrators in three sites (Postville, RogersSpringdale, and New Bedford). We obtained attendance and
academic performance data for 26 elementary school children in Postville, but we have no school data for children in
any other sites.
In general, parents viewed schools as safe havens, though
some students missed days of school, struggled to maintain
their academic performance, or started misbehaving at school.

However, many parents noted that their children were bringing home stable or improving report cards.

Schools as Safe Havens
Schools provided stability and a safe haven for many students, which helped children adjust to life after their parents’
arrest. Parents and school officials both agreed that most
children benefited from support and guidance at school. In
New Bedford, teachers emphasized that students affected by
the raid were well behaved and voiced concern about the
instability they experienced at home. One educator said,
“They might be thriving in school but it’s difficult to survive in
general.” Teachers and administrators in Postville voiced similar concerns and worked to make sure students returned to
school and received support services such as counseling. In
Springdale, Arkansas, teachers and administrators worked
closely with students who feared that their parents would be
arrested, and the staff described how siblings comforted and
looked after each other following a wave of arrests. An
immigration-related arrest in front of an elementary school
stoked the children’s fears, but administrators and teachers
responded quickly to calm children and allay parents’ fears.
This rare event only reinforced the school district’s resolve to
assure parents that schools are safe havens.

Missed Days
Despite efforts by school officials to keep children in school,
parents in each of the sites were initially wary of going outside
and hesitated to send their children back to school. Many students missed at least a few days of school after their parents’
arrests. Two kindergarten students, a boy and a girl, in two
different Postville families missed school after their mothers
were arrested. Like their siblings and other students in town,
neither attended summer school as they had planned to do
before the raid. The boy was afraid to be apart from his
mother and preferred to be home. The boy’s mother told us
how her children had grown fearful.
They’re afraid. They’re also afraid of going outside and
even going to school. They missed a week. “We don’t
want to go, mom. [What if] they take us from the bus?”
. . . “No,” I tell them, “they won’t do anything to you.”
It’s very difficult . . . I’ve sent them to study. Their
teacher [sent for them] on Tuesday and they’re
studying [at school].
49

The girl’s day-to-day routine changed so much that she
said she did not feel like getting up in time for summer
school. Their mother said,
They don’t want to go to summer [school]. They sleep
late—eleven, twelve, one in the morning and they’re
still [awake], which is a change for them; it wasn’t
like that because they would leave for school [in the
morning]. They would go out to have fun. Not
anymore. They stay in the house.
The two unrelated children initially lost interest in
school. Both mothers eventually left the country with their
children while their husbands—neither of whom was
arrested—remained in the United States.
Some parents kept their students out of school when
scrambling to deal with the consequences of arrest. Reeling
from the shock of her husband’s apprehension in a worksite
raid, a mother in Arkansas kept her two school-age boys out
of school for 20 days. The children moved from house to
house during those three weeks. Their mother was afraid to
send them to school because the arrest made local headlines,
and she did not want her children to be taunted. Her
mother recalled interactions with the school:
My sons missed a lot of school. And I sent my niece to
tell the school that my son had not gone to school for
some days, and the secretary said that . . . they were
going to fail him because he had missed a lot, but my
niece said that the principal came out . . . and that he
heard the name and that he said, “No,” he said, “I
know what problems he’s going through,” and they
supported him.
In this case, the school continued communicating with
the family to ensure the children returned to school once
their living arrangements and home life became more stable.
Some students struggled to achieve consistently good
grades and contemplated skipping school to start working.
A 7th-grade boy decided to skip summer school and told his
mother he wanted to look for a job instead. His mother
recalled,
My oldest did not want to go [to summer school]
anymore, he went last year but he didn’t want to this
year, because he tried to go see at McDonald’s if they
couldn’t give him some hours to work . . . but since he
is only 15 years old they told him no and he got really
sad, almost wanting to cry and he told me, “It’s too bad
that they didn’t want to help me.”
50

Almost a year after the Postville raid, the boy’s grades
fluctuated with his mood. When he could set aside what
happened to his family, his grades improved. His mother
said, “There are times when he doesn’t think about what’s happening to us and he gets [his grades] up and there are weeks or
semesters when they go down . . . And, well, I can’t help him
either because I don’t understand what it’s all about.” Some
other students who missed days of school also had problems
keeping their grades up within the first few months after
their parent’s arrest.
A few older students sometimes dropped out of school
altogether following a parent’s arrest. Two high school students started missing school after their mother was arrested at
Micro Solutions. The mother tried to convince the girls to
keep attending, but they eventually stopped going altogether.
One of her daughters was close to finishing school. According
to the girl’s mother, “She had already passed her exam . . . [colleges] were already calling her by telephone . . . [because] they
saw that she was a good student . . . [saying] that they were going
to help her and that, but, well, everything came down after that
day and they did not want to go [to school] . . . they told me,
‘We don’t want to go’ and ‘Not anymore.’ ” Two months
after the raid, the girls stayed home to be with their mom
and their 4-year-old brother.
As time passed, most parents sent their children back to
school. At school, many students received support from
teachers, counselors, and after-school program coordinators
that provided them with stability.

Behavior Problems
Some children exhibited behavioral and emotional changes in
the classroom, according to both parents and educators we
interviewed. In these instances, students had difficulties focusing at school across all ages. For example, after attending an
immigration court appointment at which authorities placed a
monitoring bracelet on her mother’s ankle, a girl started paying less attention and lost focus in her pre-kindergarten class.
The 5-year-old would drift and, according to her teacher, go
to “La La Land.”
Another 5-year-old girl also experienced problems paying
attention after her mother was arrested at a worksite raid. Her
teacher noticed major changes. According to her mother, the
girl’s feelings of sadness had extended into the classroom:
She is really sad at school . . . her teacher says that she
sometimes sees her, well, sad and that she doesn’t want

to pay attention to what she’s doing . . . and she gets
home and tells me that she has a lot—a lot of sadness in
her eyes, she tells me. And I tell her, “And why?” and she
tells me, “Because I know that they are going to take
you, mommy, I know that the police is going to take you
and I don’t want it,” she says, “I don’t want it,” she says,
“and if we go, don’t leave me here, don’t leave me here.
I want to go with you.”
More than a year after the raid, the girl had started biting
her nails at school, although not at home. When her teacher
asked her what was wrong, she said that her mother was going
to be taken away and she would start crying.
A 9-year-old girl whose mother was detained for five
months became rebellious at school in her mother’s absence.
A family member said, “She didn’t want us to tell her how to do
things . . . She began to have a very aggressive attitude toward her
teachers.” Her report cards reflected a steady decline, and she
stopped participating in class as she had done before.
School officials in Springdale and Postville mentioned
that students who began rebelling were often responding to
the absence of a parent. For instance, a 3rd grader’s misbehavior began to worsen after he was separated from his mother,
who had been detained at Agriprocessors and spent five
months in four different jails across the country. He banded
together with a group of children at school, and they proudly
and defiantly referred to themselves as the “bad kids.” His
teachers expressed concern about the boy. When his mother
was released, she noticed that he was disobedient. “He was
always mischievous,” she said nine months after the raid, “but
now he became more—he got a piercing to wear an earring . . . I
took out the earring, I scolded him, and I said, ‘Just watch out if
you start leaving [the house].’ ”
An 8th-grade student also exhibited outward behavioral
problems. She had generally excelled in school before her
mother’s arrest, and while she continued to perform well
academically, she began crying a lot at school. Her mother
recounted her daughter’s disobedient behavior at school:
In her mind, anything was better than whatever
her teacher was talking about. She started talking
back . . . she became kind of aggressive . . . Everything
affected her at once. Then we talked and she was the
one who cried the most, not even the little one cried as
much as she did. And I would tell her, you have to be
very strong, that’s how life is and you’ll learn from this
because you never know what will happen to you,
learn to cherish and to mature from your experiences
because it’s going to hurt a lot.

Her mother’s encouraging words were meant to transform difficult times into an opportunity to teach her daughter
about life’s challenges.

Declining School Performance
Within the first six months after their parents’ arrest, students’ study and work habits began to change and children’s
academic performance started to suffer. In the short term,
about one in five students in the sample could not keep up
their grades, according to their parents. A 2nd grader in
Miami, whose father was arrested in their apartment and
deported, was no longer doing his homework five months
later. The boy’s teacher called to tell his mother that he was
failing and might have to repeat 2nd grade. A case detailed
earlier in this chapter described a student who struggled with
changes in the family routine in the first few months after a
raid. The ongoing disruptions in her family’s life continued
to unhinge and dampen her day-to-day routine:
She was a little behind but we had to punish her . . .
because she is very—it’s not that she doesn’t know but
that she doesn’t want to do . . . Everything that’s happened has a lot to do with it because, like I said,
instead of sitting down to study with them, instead of
sitting down to talk with them, to go to the park, well,
no, we have to leave them with someone to go work.
We have to leave them overnight.
Students had difficulties keeping up their grades in the
long term about as often as they did within the first six
months after their parent’s arrest. For example, nine months
after the Postville raid, a 10th grader asked her mother why
she should continue studying if they are going to be sent
away. Her mother recounted, “She does pay attention to her
studies but a lot less.” As of the spring of 2009, the family
remained in Iowa waiting for her mother’s court date scheduled toward the end of 2009, almost a year and a half after
the raid.

Academic Resilience
Some parents in our sample noted stable or improved academic performance among their children. For example,
educators in New Bedford mentioned that students’ academic performance remained generally stable. Similarly,
school officials in Postville and Springdale noted that most
51

students were performing at the same level as they were
before the arrests.
Even students who struggled at first were able to recover
their academic performance in the long term. For instance,
two months after the raid in Van Nuys, a mother worried
that her daughter might drop out because the girl would say
she did not see the point of graduating from high school if her
mother was going to be deported. A year later, the daughter’s
grades improved after an initial slump and she began doing
better than before the raid. The mother proudly said that her
daughter wants to succeed.
In another example, after an initial drop in her children’s
grades, a mother in Arkansas saw an opportunity to encourage
them to do better at school. She recalled that their grades
“came down, they came down a lot but I talked with them and
I told them to do their best, because when I would go before the
immigration judge, the judge would say . . . ‘These children don’t
even do their part, why should I let you stay here?’ So we have all
tried to lift ourselves up.” Her children (in 3rd, 6th, and 10th
grades) all made improvements.
In Postville, several elementary and middle school students in our sample made efforts to maintain or improve their
grades. Two children (3rd and 5th grades) missed a week of
school after their mother’s arrest. She encouraged them to try
harder and not give up on school and told them, “You have to
go . . . it’s a moment when they will go and distract themselves a
little, they will take their mind off of this.” Nine months after
the raid, the younger child maintained a B average, and her
older brother’s report card improved dramatically from a
C average to better than a B+ average. Similarly, a girl in
5th grade at the time of the raid improved her grades.
Nine months after the raid, an 8th-grade boy in Postville was
taking some high school classes and earning an A in nearly
every subject. His steady improvement came after an initial
period of disillusionment when he withdrew from school
activities and friends. Near the end of the 2008–09 school
year, he had joined the band and the basketball team and
was poised to skip a grade. A family member said, “It was
really complicated but now . . . I think that [school] is like a
refuge for him. I don’t know if it’s to forget everything that has
happened or to make sure that his mother’s sacrifice is worth it.
I don’t know but, well, it makes him feel good.” Three siblings
(in 5th, 6th, and 8th grades) were averaging near or above a
B+ through most of the 2008–09 academic year, despite
ongoing behavioral problems at home and being apart from
their father and uncle. Their father was not arrested but had
52

left Postville to look for work, and their uncle had been
deported.

School as a Beneficial Routine
Some younger children in our sample appear to have benefitted from the routines provided by preschool and kindergarten classrooms. For example, a 4-year-old girl started
pre-kindergarten soon after her mother was arrested in Van
Nuys. School became an outlet for the girl, who was a bit
quiet and shy in the classroom but learned a lot and made
friends easily. One year after the raid, the girl was well
adjusted and had become less clingy. Two siblings enrolled in
Postville’s Early Head Start and Head Start programs stayed
in summer school after the raid. Attending school allowed
these children to have a daily routine at a time when many
things were changing, including the prolonged detention
of their father and a change of residence. A mother of a
kindergarten student in Van Nuys had feared that her son
would have trouble at school, but her son did well. She said:
School is what surprised me. I thought the boy would
be doing badly but no. The teacher told me, “Look,
since that time [since the raid], the boy—” I said,
“Well, he’s fallen,” the teacher said, “No, he’s progressing a lot.” And I thought the teacher was going to tell
me that [his grades] fell. “Look,” the teacher said, “he
has dedicated to learning a lot of words . . . he dedicated himself and he knows them.” [I said,] “Well,
teacher, it seems strange to me, I thought he was bound
to fall.” But the teacher told me, “No, it’s been the
opposite since [that time] until now.”
A kindergarten student was able to adjust at school
despite many changes since the Postville raid. He was enrolled
in Head Start before the raid, which allowed him to get
acquainted with school and meet other students. After his
mother was arrested, the family prepared to move back to
Mexico because they expected her imminent deportation. The
5-year-old boy spent four months in Mexico before returning
to the United States after his mother was released.
Remarkably, nine months after the raid, he was doing well
and his report card reflected some improvement despite the
hectic events following his mother’s arrest.
Some older children also demonstrated an ability to
focus on their school life and perform well in the face of
tremendous stress. A high school student in Arkansas was
doing well in school and excelling in sports. Despite years of

domestic abuse and his mother’s pending deportation, the
boy focused on school. His mother was proud that he was
doing well, even as she struggled emotionally:
Before having these problems . . . I was different . . .
happier, and now, well, lately, people tell me,
“What’s the matter? You’re, like, really sad” . . . it’s
like they ask to be foolish, knowing that it’s impossible for me to be well in the situation that I’m in . . .
right now, I only go to take my two children and the
oldest one to school . . . right now, he’s doing very
well in school. In sports, things are going very well, in
high school, and . . . I don’t want to move him. And
my sister tells me, “Well, in the meantime, leave him
with me.”
*****
Parents in our sample observed substantial and wide-ranging
behavioral changes in children following parental arrest, detention, and deportation. A majority of the children in the study
displayed changes in such basic areas as sleeping, eating, and
controlling their emotions. Parents of more than half the children reported that their children cried and complained about
being afraid after the raid. Many children displayed increased
anxiety and were more withdrawn, clingy, and aggressive.
These behavior changes apply to children with parents arrested
in worksite raids, in home raids, and during routine police
operations. Behavioral change symptoms coexist for many
children in the sample, with more than three of five of the
children exhibiting three or more behavioral changes, and two
of five exhibiting five or more behavioral changes. In the short

term, children who were separated from their parents due to
detention or deportation seemed to have experienced particularly severe effects. Children whose parents were arrested at
home in front of their children also exhibited drastic changes.
In the long term, more than nine months after parental
arrest, the frequency of children’s reported behavioral changes
fell somewhat but remained common. While the frequency of
changes related to eating, sleeping, crying, and feeling afraid
had declined modestly, at least 40 percent of children in the
long-term sample still exhibited each of these behavioral
changes. Withdrawal and aggression were especially persistent
and troubling for children who were separated from their
parents for long periods.
Children in the sample displayed both positive and negative changes at school. Many children experienced disruptions
in school in the short run, including missing days of school as
well as behavioral and academic problems. However, many
parents and teachers also relayed positive stories about children’s long-run adjustments and the schools’ role in offering
stability and structure. Schools were generally safe havens for
children (and often parents) in four of our sites (Grand
Island, New Bedford, Postville, and Rogers-Springdale), but
we were unable to collect sufficient data on the other two
sites. Students appear to have benefitted from school routines
and the support they received from teachers and school personnel at a time when their lives at home were unstable. As
we detail in the next chapter on community impacts, schools
in these four sites went out of their way to continue welcoming students, educating them, and keeping them safe.

53

5. COMMUNITY RESPONSES TO
RAIDS AND OTHER ARRESTS
reviously in this report we described the enforcement activities that took place in our six study locations and their impacts
on families and children. Our study communities were selected to reflect a diversity of settings: a small town in rural
Northeast Iowa (Postville), a medium-sized city in rural central Nebraska (Grand Island), two medium-sized cities together
in a rural-urban area of Northwest Arkansas (Rogers and Springdale), a medium-sized city near Boston (New Bedford), neighborhoods in a one of the nation’s largest cities (Miami), and a suburb of the nation’s second largest city, Los Angeles (Van Nuys).

P

In this chapter we present our findings regarding the
community responses to worksite raids and other enforcement
activities, and how these responses helped ameliorate impacts
on families and children. We seek to answer the central
research questions we developed about community responses:
Ⅲ How were community responses (both public and private) implemented in the sites, and what kind of
response models were developed?
Ⅲ What lessons can be learned from the sites about how
to deliver assistance to affected families and children?
Ⅲ What were the successes and challenges of the institutions providing assistance?
Our findings primarily come from our interviews with
community respondents—local government officials, law
enforcement officers, service providers, and faith-based and
other community leaders. As with our interviews of parents,
our community-respondent interviews in the four sites—
Grand Island, New Bedford, Van Nuys, and Postville—
occurred at two points in time: within six months after the
raids and nine months or more after the raids. The interviews in the other sites—Miami and Rogers-Springdale—
occurred at single points in time.
As in our chapters describing impacts on families and
children, we focus here on both short- and long-term
response efforts in our study communities. One of the
important themes we discuss is the extent to which response
efforts are sustainable over time.

Community Response Efforts
in the Study Sites
Grand Island
Grand Island is one of the three sites we included in our
2007 study Paying the Price, and short-term response efforts
are also described in that report. On the morning of the
raid, December 12, 2006, ICE notified the Grand Island
chief of police who in turn notified government institutions
including the Nebraska DHHS and the Grand Island public
schools. Subsequent rapid communication to community
leaders resulted in the mobilization of the Grand Island
Multicultural Coalition (MC), which consisted of over
20 CBOs, churches, DHHS, and the public schools. The
MC organized and conducted a meeting the day after the raid
to develop a coordinated response.
Many of the response efforts focused on meeting the
immediate material needs of affected families. Swift gave
$62,000 to the local United Way (an MC member) for relief
to families whose members were detained in the raid.61
Churches conducted fundraising and food drives, and provided sanctuary and food to affected families. There was also
significant assistance from the United Food and Commercial

61

Swift donated several hundred thousand dollars to the United
Way to assist arrested workers across all six company plants that
were raided on December 12, 2006.
55

Workers (UFCW), as the plant was unionized. Just after the
raid, public service announcements on Spanish language
radio and in the newspaper provided information about
services available to affected families.
The Grand Island public schools acted immediately
through a coordinated effort led by the district superintendent. Principals and teachers were briefed and a plan was
implemented to protect the safety of the immigrant students.
The superintendent announced that the schools would be
safe havens, and within a few days parents trusted the schools
enough to send their children back. The local public health
department and the DHHS provided access to services for
families, including welfare, food stamps, and health benefits
to eligible applicants.
While not a member of the MC, the Grand Island
police chief declared publicly that his department was not
connected to the raid and did not support it. The mayor of
Grand Island and state elected officials made no public statements about the raid.
Grand Island had no experienced immigration attorneys
before the raid, and this opened the door to notarios—notary
publics who posed as immigration consultants—who reportedly provided misinformation to unwitting immigrants.
After the raid, UFCW and the Mexican consulate contacted
lawyers in the state capital of Lincoln and the state’s largest
city of Omaha.62
Roughly three-quarters of the money from the Swift
fund was disbursed in the first six months. The United Way
imposed strict accounting and proof of eligibility on the
funds, limiting the assistance to families that included an
arrested immigrant. Central Nebraska Community Services
(CNCS)—a local United Way agency—was the main
provider of assistance for housing, food, medical bills, and
other daily living expenses. CNCS served more than 100 families with almost 200 children. Families were allocated about
$200 for the first month, then up to $700 in total assistance
in subsequent months. Most families tapped into this assistance for three or four months.
The worksite raid and subsequent home raids led to
widespread fears in the immigrant community that were seen
in immigrants’ hiding behaviors, businesses shutting down for
periods, workers fearful of returning to work, and children
absent from schools. Some immigrants hid in their homes,
62

Lincoln is about an hour’s drive from Grand Island, and Omaha
is about two hours away.

56

drew curtains, and refused to open the door for neighbors and
trusted community members. Residents also reported that a
number of Latino local businesses suspended operations temporarily as their customer base dwindled. According to school
officials, about 275 Latino public school students—most, but
not all, from immigrant families—failed to report to school in
the days following the raid.
Church and school officials reported conducting outreach, going door to door to draw families out and reassure
them that schools were a secure place for their children.
Representatives from churches, schools, and CBOs reported
that even with this outreach, they had difficulty getting
some to open their doors to receive basic assistance such
as food baskets.
During our first visit six months after the raid, in spring
2007, the Swift plant continued to have difficulty replacing
lost workers. Somali immigrants moved into the community
to fill jobs vacated by the Latino community, but many
left after a short time for better employment opportunities
elsewhere. Schools secured funding to add social workers
through a federal grant, allowing them to provide counseling
and other services to help children acclimate to the post-raid
environment.
By the time of our second visit in spring 2008, more
than a year after the raid, a number of families had moved
elsewhere in the United States to seek work or had returned
to their home countries following deported or voluntarily
departed family members. Since a large majority of arrested
immigrants were deported or left voluntarily right after the
raid, some families found themselves separated for prolonged periods. The Mexican consulate provided assistance
to some of the families who chose to return to Mexico.
There was little cash assistance, with just $9,000 in funds
still available through the United Way. However, there were
only a few affected families still living in Grand Island, and
a handful of them continued to receive this assistance.
For the families who remained in Grand Island, transportation remained a persistent problem. Often, the male
householder was the only driver in a family, so if he was
detained or deported, the remaining spouse was unable to
transport herself or her family to school, to legal proceedings, or to receive services.
In hindsight, legal assistance was generally acknowledged
to be the biggest unmet need after the raid. A small number
of families were able to get legal representation through
UFCW or private attorneys, but most of the arrested immi-

grants chose voluntary departure fairly quickly or wound
up getting deported within months following the raid.
Another unmet need stemmed from the large bonds—up to
$10,000—that immigration judges imposed on some arrested
immigrants as a condition of their release. None of the groups
involved in response efforts—the consulates, UFCW, state
and local agencies, or local churches—were able to provide
assistance in paying these bonds.

New Bedford
New Bedford was the second of our study sites, and community responses there are also outlined in Paying the Price. The
community response to the New Bedford raid on March 6,
2007, was noteworthy because of the broad-based federal,
state, and local government support in the aftermath of the
raid, and the effective coordination among different institutions immediately after the raid. MDSS played a key role in
gaining access to detainees in order to assess whether they
were parents. Their actions included securing a commitment
from ICE (via court order) to allow MDSS social workers to
meet with detainees, half of whom had been transferred to
Texas detention centers. The local MDSS office also worked
with the New Bedford schools to identify needs and coordinate services to students.
State and local elected government officials soon became
involved in the community response. Soon after the raid, the
governor visited New Bedford and met with community
leaders. The mayor and other city officials expressed concern
about the manner in which the raids were conducted. The
state’s U.S. senators and the local congressional representative were active in voicing their support for MDSS to gain
access to detainees in Texas, and their efforts were successful
in gaining the release of about two dozen mothers.
New Bedford is located near Boston, a hub for many
different immigrant-serving organizations. Unlike in Grand
Island, the New Bedford response included substantial financial, legal, and other resources raised from within the state.
MIRA, a statewide coalition comprised of over 100 community organizations, helped coordinate service delivery immediately after the raid. MIRA established a special fund called
the New Bedford Immigrant Families/Niños Fund with
donations from foundations, CBOs (from as far away as
Seattle), Boston-area businesses, and the general public. The
fund covered basic needs for more than 100 families affected
by the raid with assistance for housing, utilities, and food.

Their efforts quickly raised more than $200,000 and were
distributed mostly in the first three months after the raid.
Institutions in New Bedford and Boston were active
during this critical 90-day period. In New Bedford, Our
Lady of Guadalupe parish offered sanctuary to families in
need of emergency shelter. CBOs such as Maya K’iche,
MIRA, Catholic Social Services (CSS), and the Community
Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts coordinated distribution of the Niños Fund and triaged services. CSS and
Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) assisted detainees
with legal proceedings. A Boston-based philanthropist,
Robert Hildreth, personally contributed more than
$132,000 for bonds to get 37 detainees released. In the single most expensive case across our study sites, the judge
required a $37,000 bond, and the philanthropist paid
$32,000 of it.63 The public schools mobilized to make sure
that students were not stranded at school on the day of the
raid, and that parents felt comfortable sending their children
back to class.
At the time of our second visit about a year after the
raid (in spring 2008), when about 200 deportation cases
were still being contested, the resources of the Niños Fund
had diminished to about $50,000. After the first few
months, the fund’s use shifted to preserving intact families
(e.g., obtaining passports for U.S.-born children who might
return to their parents’ countries of origin) and helping with
emergency situations (e.g., providing rent money to families facing imminent eviction). MIRA substantially reduced
its coordination role, while a pool of local CBOs and
churches continued to support the remaining immigrant
families. More generally, fewer families sought assistance
from organizations, preferring instead to work if they could
or rely on family or social networks for support. Some
immigrant families found work locally, mostly in fisheries.
However, these replacement jobs were mostly temporary
and paid less than their jobs at Michael Bianco before the
raid. Some community organizations shifted their emphasis
to English language learning programs and immigrant
rights workshops.
Transportation remained a major ongoing need, with
MIRA and Our Lady of Guadalupe parish teaming to provide such services. In particular, there was a need to regularly
transport families an hour away to Boston for scheduled
63

Miriam Jordan, 2008, “Boston Financier Steps In to Bail Out
Illegal Immigrants,” Wall Street Journal, March 19.
57

hearings and to provide transportation to the ICE field
office, which was more than an hour away, for monitoring
meetings.

Van Nuys
On February 7, 2008, the day of the raid of Micro Solutions,
ICE contacted the Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights
of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) and the Central American
Resource Center (CARECEN). Both are part of the Los
Angeles Rapid Response Network (RRN), a coalition of
community-based organizations, legal service organizations,
and labor organizers whose objective is to respond to ICE
work raids. Prior to the raid, members of the RRN had
received training from Yale University Law School professor
Michael Wishnie, which centered on the rights of immigrants when arrested or detained by ICE.64
RRN was prepared by this training and mobilized
quickly upon notification of the raid. RRN members were
dispatched to Micro Solutions and to the downtown Los
Angeles detention center to provide detainees with advice
and legal counsel. Roughly 45 RRN attorneys were involved.
The National Lawyers Guild filed a suit against ICE on
behalf of the detainees and negotiated the presence of legal
counsel when ICE interviewed the detainees. About a third
of the detainees were released with supervision on the day of
the raid, and most of them had electronic monitoring devices
affixed to their ankles.
The day after the raid, CHIRLA, Unite Here Local 11
(a union), and local businesses conducted a joint press conference to highlight community outrage over the raid. But
neither the City of Los Angeles nor the State of California
issued an official reaction. Attempts by a city council member to pass a resolution were unsuccessful. The Los Angeles

64 The training, based in part on lessons learned in Wishnie’s study
of the New Bedford experience, had two goals: first, to educate key
people in the community who could then inform immigrants how
to respond in the case of a worksite raid or home arrest, and second, to prepare local lawyers on the related constitutional law
issues to put them in position to mount an adequate defense for those
detained. For more detail on the key constitutional law issues surrounding immigration arrests, see J. Cox and M. J. Wishnie, 2009,
“Appendix: The Constitutional Law of Immigration Enforcement,”
pp. 63–68 in Raids on Workers: Destroying Our Rights, Washington,
DC: United Food and Commercial Workers, http://www.ufcw.org/
docUploads/UFCW%20ICE%20rpt%20FINAL%20150B_061
809_130632.pdf?CFID=7532992&CFTOKEN=84036596.

58

Independent School District had no official reaction to the
raid. Mexican and Salvadoran consular staff were present at
the Los Angeles detention center, where they met with their
nationals, provided advice, and made legal referrals.
After the raid, CHIRLA convened weekly Sunday meetings with victims to triage needs and create solidarity toward
a common cause. A fundamental objective of these meetings
was community organizing and advocacy (which are central
to CHIRLA’s mission). To meet basic needs on an emergency basis, families were referred to churches (e.g., Holy
Rosary, Immaculate Conception, and Sacred Heart), which
conducted fundraising and food drives. Families were also
directed to other service providers, such as the Los Angeles
Department of Public Social Services and local food banks.
Independently, other organizations such as Mujeres Unidas
conducted their own separate fundraising and relief efforts.
The Mexican consulate provided $19,000 in cash assistance
to 50 families within the first year after the raid. As in
Grand Island, the consulate also paid some families’
expenses associated with returning to Mexico. The
Honduran consulate distributed food baskets to 80 families
(irrespective of nationality) for two weeks after the raid.
Finally, Unite Here Local 11 worked with Campaign Car
Wash to raise funds to offset legal expenses of the immigrants
who chose to fight deportation in court. This was a point of
contention because the victims wanted to use some of the
funding to offset basic economic needs.
Our study respondents told us that fundraising to help
the families affected by the raid was difficult, despite the substantial resources available in the Los Angeles area. In the
case of Van Nuys it was much easier to recruit legal assistance
than to find funding for humanitarian assistance—the opposite of the pattern we observed in Grand Island and Postville.
More than a year and a half after the raid, a large majority of the Van Nuys arrestees was still in the United States.
The immigrant community was buoyed by legal victories,
including two deportation hearing dismissals, which led
other arrestees to more actively challenge their cases. In addition, over 30 arrested immigrants had their deportation put
on hold in exchange for cooperating with the immigration
investigation against Micro Solutions. Staff at CHIRLA and
other CBOs said that these legal victories had led more of the
arrested immigrants to engage in community organizing
activities. At the same time, there were also signs that the
protracted legal battles to contest deportation were associated
with continuing economic hardship among some families in

Van Nuys because the arrested immigrants were unable to
work. Even those with work permits had difficulty finding
employment due to California’s severe recession.

Postville
In the immediate aftermath of the May 12, 2008, raid, leaders from the local Catholic, Presbyterian, and Lutheran
churches and their statewide networks began organizing a
humanitarian response. Local religious leaders, working with
a statewide network, successfully tapped resources from
Luther College in Decorah (just a half hour away) as well as
from more distant locales such as Des Moines, Minneapolis,
and Chicago. Collectively they raised relief funds, developed
service delivery infrastructure, and secured legal assistance.
More than $900,000 was raised—a large sum relative to
amounts that were raised in the other sites we studied. Most
of the resources were devoted to humanitarian assistance.
The relief operation was centrally organized out of
St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Postville, where the local
clergy, the Sisters of Mercy (based out of nearby Waterloo),
and faculty and students from Luther College ran the operation. The clergy and volunteers developed a service delivery
infrastructure from scratch, since none existed before the
raid. Notably, St. Bridget’s developed their own financial
and accountability systems, and found outside resources
for basic infrastructure such as upgraded phone lines, computers, and fax machines. An existing Hispanic ministry at
St. Bridget’s had an established relationship with members
of the Postville Latino community. Before the raid, the
ministry periodically assisted families and had become a
well-known source of support for families seeking translation and other services. St. Bridget’s had previously
coordinated a short-term relief effort five years earlier
when Postville’s then second-largest employer, a turkey
processing plant, was destroyed in a fire.
St. Bridget’s Catholic Church was not the only immigrant congregation before the raid, since many immigrants
were Protestants from Guatemala. However, St. Bridget’s
quickly established itself as a relief hub by providing sanctuary
to over 400 family members of arrested immigrants in the
week that followed. The raid so terrified Postville’s immigrant
families (not just those with arrested members) that many
were afraid to stay in their own homes. This is remarkable
because in our other sites, we mostly heard that immigrants
hid in their homes. In Postville, however, most families

either ran to St. Bridget’s or fled the town altogether. Some
families even fled into nearby fields, where they stayed for
several days.65 It was not until more than a week after the raid
that families began leaving St. Bridget’s and returning to their
homes. During this week, St. Bridget’s provided food, bedding, clothing, medical care, and all of the basic needs for
hundreds of parents and children. This intensive experience
cemented the church’s role as a sanctuary and the foundation
of support for the immigrant community.
The depth of humanitarian support and the length of
time for which it was delivered were greater in Postville than
the other sites, although there was substantial long-term
support in New Bedford as well. By March 2009, at the
time of our second visit and nine months after the raid,
St. Bridget’s had already spent more than $500,000 to assist
about 200 families.66 The church was still supporting more
than 50 families, including minors who had been arrested
and released, and mothers who were still wearing ankle
bracelets and unable to work. At its peak, the St. Bridget’s
relief operation expended more than $80,000 per month.
Relief was limited to families with members arrested in the
raid, and support mostly went for housing, utilities, food, basic
necessities, and—in some cases—medical bills. St. Bridget’s
paid up to $600 monthly for rent directly to landlords, and
paid electric and gas bills directly to utilities. Food was provided through the local food bank and food drives; hot meals
were available once or twice per week. St. Bridget’s estimated
that in some months up to $1,200 was needed to support an
individual family.
The mayor and other city leaders spoke out against the
raid but were not actively involved in St. Bridget’s relief
efforts. The lieutenant governor came to Postville in the fall
of 2008, more than six months after the raid and after
Agriprocessors went bankrupt. At that time, the City had
declared a local economic and humanitarian disaster and
asked the State of Iowa for disaster assistance. The State did

65 We were told that many of the Guatemalan immigrants in
Postville had experienced raids by the military or other forces during the country’s civil war and had fled into the fields to escape
capture and violence. This pattern appears to have repeated itself
during the Postville raid.
66 St. Bridget’s support was also essential to the survival of landlords and other local businesses, many of which would likely have
failed if so many immigrant families had lost the means to pay rent
and other basic expenses.

59

not declare Postville a disaster area, in part because so many
other Iowa communities had been affected by recent major
floods and plant closings.
However, the State and City worked together to obtain
a $700,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development for disaster relief in the form of housing and utility assistance to families affected by the plant
closing. This funding served the larger population in
Postville affected by the plant closing, including some of the
families of arrested immigrants. The Postville Relief
Coalition was set up as a nonprofit organization specifically
to disburse these funds. Families were limited to $3,000 or
three months of assistance, and this grant had mostly been
spent by March 2009, because the majority of the population
of Postville was affected by the plant closing. It was unclear
how much of this grant went to immigrant families caught
up in the raid, but some of our respondents received some
assistance through this program.
St. Bridget’s was also effective in linking affected families with health care and public assistance. The free clinic
in nearby Decorah, which had seen several workers from
Agriprocessors before the raid, sent a doctor and a nurse
to St. Bridget’s during the week after the raid. A bilingual
social worker from the Iowa DHS office in nearby Decorah
already had some Agriprocessors workers on her food
stamps caseload before the raid, and she came to St. Bridget’s
several times during that first week to reassess the needs of
her existing clients and to sign up new ones. St. Bridget’s
worked closely with the free clinic and Iowa DHS in the
months following the raid to ensure that families received
needed health care and benefits for their eligible citizen
children.
The Postville public school system was also active in
responding to the raid, just as the schools had been in Grand
Island and New Bedford. Postville has a single high school
and one elementary/middle school, and most teachers and
administrators live in the community. On the day of the raid,
one of the principals and the lead counselor visited both the
plant and St. Bridget’s Church to speak with arrestees and
their families. Over the course of the next week, the principal
and counselor communicated directly with the families staying at St. Bridget’s and convinced worried parents to allow
their children to be transported by bus to and from the
school. They also went door to door in search of students. As
a result, most students with immigrant parents were back in
school by the second week after the raid (although that was
60

the last week of the school year). While enrollment declined
for summer school, it rebounded in the fall. As of March
2009, 10 months after the raid, about 100 students out of
350 had left the elementary/middle school, but there were as
many new students. Enrollment had stabilized.
As in Grand Island, the efforts of the Postville administrators to make schools safe havens paid off with better
attendance over the long run. Teachers and administrators
said that academics had not suffered and children’s behavior remained good. However, they did report that there
were still some lingering impacts of the raid months later,
and that between September 2008 and January 2009 there
were over 100 counseling sessions for schoolchildren with
arrested parents, as well as dozens of sessions for other
children—with both immigrant and U.S.-born parents—
who were strongly affected by the events surrounding and
following the raid.
One of the most important participants in the Postville
response effort was an immigration lawyer based out of Des
Moines, who represented over 50 of the arrested immigrants.
She was successful, with limited paralegal assistance, in
obtaining visas for more than half of her clients, as described
in chapter 2. There were a handful of other immigration
lawyers involved, but their caseloads were much smaller. As
was the case in Grand Island, the remoteness of Postville limited the availability of legal assistance, and this single lawyer
handled most of the caseload by herself. In December 2009,
more than a year and a half after the raid, 29 women and
minors had received U-visas or other forms of relief from
deportation, and 30 cases were still pending. Most of these
60 women and minors were caught up in the raid, but
a few were other workers at the plant. Additionally,
35 adults and six minors were released as material witnesses and were still in the country, although the 35 adults
were no longer needed for trial and likely to be deported
within a short period.

Miami
The raids by ICE’s fugitive teams and other officers on
Haitians in their homes and across the community had a
fundamentally different effect on the community compared
with the large-scale worksite raids we studied in other locations. The Miami raids lacked a single, defining traumatic
event and did not generate the same community reaction
that characterized workplace raid sites such as New Bedford

and Postville.67 Worksite raids can instill a sharp, intense fear
in the immigrant community. The Miami enforcement
activity, on the other hand, instilled a more chronic fear in
the Haitian community, a fear that subsided less over time
because of a perception of ICE’s continuing and conspicuous
presence.
In contrast to the sites with large-scale worksite raids, in
Miami there was far less community and media attention to
the situation of affected families and less of a community
effort to raise funds and coordinate relief efforts. Though as
described earlier, families in Miami experienced material
hardship as great as or greater than families in our other
sites, no special relief operation was available to help them.
They sought services through informal channels or through
CBOs on a case-by-case basis.
While there appeared to be no coordinated effort to provide relief to the families of detainees, a number of CBOs,
churches, and legal service organizations provided assistance
independently to the Haitian community as a whole, including the families of arrested immigrants. Church Notre Dame
D’Haiti, through its affiliated Haitian Center, counseled
families affected by ICE activity on both psychological and
spiritual matters. The church also sent letters to immigration
judges documenting the residency period of detainees and
immigrants seeking permanent residency. The Florida
Immigrant Advocacy Coalition (FIAC) had been working
with the Haitian consulate and the Florida Department of
Families and Children to protect the interests of detainee
children and developed materials for families before and after
arrest, as well as during detention.68 Other organizations
(e.g., Haitian’s Women’s Association, Sant La) offered parenting classes, after-school care, and limited legal services.
They also assisted families with applications for aid such as
Medicaid, food stamps, and WIC.
Organizations such as Catholic Legal Services and FIAC
provide legal services to the Haitian community, as well as
others affected by home raids. Due to thousands of arrests in
the Miami area each year, the demand for legal services
exceeds capacity—even in Miami, which has a relatively high

67

Our interviews in December 2008 included families with parents
arrested over a two-year period beginning in early 2007.
68 Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, no date, “Detainees with
Minor Children: Frequently Asked Questions” Miami; Florida
Immigrant Advocacy Center, 2008, “Immigration Raids: How to
Protect Yourself in Case of a Raid,” Miami, July 16.

number of immigration lawyers. In Miami, as in Grand
Island, our community respondents reported increased business for notarios who are suspected of providing poor legal
advice while charging immigrants excessive fees. Because
Haitian immigration cases often involve asylum requests,
which are complex and difficult to substantiate, competent
legal assistance is particularly important.
The Haitian families in Miami we studied also had little
recourse to contest deportation, because they mostly had outstanding prior deportation orders. These orders were the reason for their arrest by FOTs and could rarely be contested.

Rogers-Springdale
In Rogers and Springdale, Arkansas, we studied the aftermath of arrests and raids by the local police, who were acting
under 287(g) agreements with ICE to enforce immigration
laws. These raids occurred over about six months, starting in
October 2007 and leading up to our visit in May 2008. As in
Miami, there was no single large-scale raid to generate significant media attention and coordination of relief efforts.
There was one set of small-scale raids on a chain of Mexican
restaurants in December 2007 that attracted some media
attention (especially on Spanish language radio stations) and,
for a short time, a community response. Leaders in the
business community and the Latino community generally
complained that these raids were not targeted at serious
criminals—but instead at Latino business owners more
generally. These raids served to drive a wedge between local
police departments and most of the Latino community
leaders who had originally supported the 287(g) program.
Overall, however, there was not much media attention
to the 287(g) program and the impacts that arrests had on
families. Additionally, many of our respondents said the
constant threat of arrest by local authorities, for instance, for
driving violations, deterred immigrants from seeking services
from government offices or CBOs such as food pantries.
There was no apparent coordination among service
providers, CBOs, FBOs, or schools after the 287(g) program was implemented and the restaurant raids took place.
Individuals and organizations provided assistance as best as
they were able. St. Vincent de Paul church provided ad hoc
cash assistance to cover bills. Legal assistance was available
through a Catholic Charities affiliate and several local
lawyers, but their capacity was limited. A few organizations
provided families with referrals to appropriate services. A
61

number of service providers and advocacy organizations that
are centrally located in the Jones Center in downtown
Springdale did not generally coordinate their efforts. The
Mexican consulate in Little Rock—about four hours away—
provided some help with emergency funding. There were
limited housing services available; in fact, the only general
overnight shelter in the area was provided by the Salvation
Army and they did not serve unauthorized immigrants.
Local domestic violence shelters, however, took unauthorized victims and their children.
Neither the state nor the city governments of Rogers
and Springdale—which were participating alongside ICE in
enforcement activities—offered support for the affected
families or the immigrant community in general. However,
both a congressional representative and a former representative communicated their concerns to the federal government
about ICE enforcement activity in Arkansas.
Beyond the lack of coordination there were other barriers to accessing services. One problematic area was translation and interpretation, for which government service
agencies in the area had limited capacity. A handful of
CBOs (e.g., Catholic Charities and St. Francis Community
Clinic) had ample bilingual staff but some others (e.g.,
Economic Opportunity Agency and the local Head Start
programs) did not.
As in other sites, transportation emerged as another
important barrier. The two cities are spread out geographically with minimal public transportation, and many immigrants said they were afraid to drive because of the arrests
during traffic stops.
Finally, as in Miami, arrested immigrants had little hope
of relief from deportation. Because they had been charged with
other crimes most avenues of relief were unavailable to the
immigrants arrested through the 287(g) program, even in cases
where the charges may have been for relatively minor offenses.

Lessons Learned about
the Delivery of Assistance
This section describes briefly what we learned about the
types of organizations providing assistance, the frameworks
or models they used for service delivery, and the types of
assistance they offered.
1. Across most sites, many organizations participated in
providing community assistance, including community62

and faith-based groups, schools, and legal services
organizations.
Churches and faith-based groups generally played the most
important roles in providing short-term humanitarian relief
and long-term spiritual support to families affected by ICE
enforcement activity. Churches were often the first places
that families would turn for emergency assistance. Churches
were conduits for food and clothing drives and cash-based
fundraising efforts. Some churches like St. Bridget’s in
Postville and Our Lady of Guadalupe in New Bedford
played key roles as safe havens and in the distribution of
humanitarian relief. Faith-based organizations such as
Catholic Charities were involved in humanitarian relief
efforts in Grand Island, New Bedford, and Postville. They
also provided legal services in New Bedford, Miami, and
Rogers-Springdale.
Other community groups were also important contributors. Organizations like the United Way, the Salvation Army,
and local community health centers provided humanitarian
assistance and referred families to other service providers.
United Way–based organizations were especially involved in
Grand Island, because Swift had funneled their relief funding
through these organizations. In Grand Island, Postville, and
Rogers-Springdale, local nonprofit community clinics played
important roles in health screening and delivery. CBOs also
worked with local government and businesses to coordinate
service delivery. However, as described below, while these
organizations were able to step up in the immediate aftermath of the raids, their resources were tested during the
longer limbo periods of months or even a year or more
when parents were contesting their deportation. Moreover,
in some sites these organizations were not well prepared to
address the needs of a culturally diverse, non-Englishspeaking population.
Public schools offered strong support for children with
arrested parents in four of our sites. In Grand Island and
New Bedford, the districtwide coordinated strategy ensured
that children were not stranded at school on the day of the
raid. In Postville, school staff provided secure transportation
to and from school for a week after the raid, to get the children back in school. Moreover, these school systems established themselves as “safe places” for immigrant children. This
helped reduce absenteeism stemming from parents’ fear that
their children would be detained. All three also provided
counseling to a significant number of students following the

raids. In Springdale, the district worked hard to maintain a
sense of safety after police arrested parents outside of an elementary school as they waited to pick up their children. We
did not find comparable evidence of school involvement in
Miami or Van Nuys.
Organizations that provide legal services, community
organizing, and advocacy were important partners in several
sites, although they were constrained by limited capacity.
Even in a large urban environment like Van Nuys, a coalition of legal service organizations, including the American
Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild, was
collectively unable to meet the needs of all of the arrested
immigrants. Advocacy organizations such as CHIRLA in
Van Nuys were central in the effort to create a unified group
of immigrants willing to fight deportation. In New Bedford,
MIRA played a similarly important role, although one that
was more focused on helping to bring attention to the needs
of arrested immigrants and their families and to coordinate
the activities of local groups to engage in ongoing response
efforts.
2. While public agencies in many sites stood ready to
serve eligible immigrant family members, some overcame
families’ suspicion and fear more successfully than others.
State departments of human services, social service agencies,
child welfare agencies, and health departments offered a variety of services to at least some family members of arrested
immigrants. Benefits included food stamps, Medicaid, and
the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for eligible
U.S.-born children of immigrants, and more generally, WIC
for families with young children. In New Bedford, MDSS
helped secure the release of two dozen parents to be with
their children, and a few minors who were arrested while
working at Michael Bianco were taken into foster care. In
Postville, one minor who was not arrested but left his job at
Agriprocessors came to St. Bridget’s several months after the
raid and was taken into foster care.
In some sites, families continued to be very cautious
about presenting themselves to apply for benefits, while community responders in other sites helped encourage and facilitate a much broader use of public benefits in this time of
economic necessity. We found much higher use of public
benefits soon after the raid and over the longer term in the
sites with well-coordinated disaster-relief efforts—Postville,
Grand Island, and New Bedford—than in the other three
sites. In Arkansas, Miami, and Van Nuys, where relatively

few sought assistance despite their needs, a significant concern for families was the perception that presenting themselves for benefits and services at government agencies could
subject other family members to arrest and detention. This
was especially apparent in Rogers-Springdale, where the local
police were involved in arresting and detaining immigrants.
When churches, advocacy groups, and CBOs served as
intermediaries or when public agencies directly conducted
outreach, they were better able to connect eligible family
members with needed benefits. In Grand Island, New
Bedford, and Postville, social service workers went into the
community to discuss eligibility and help with the application
process. Prior experiences also affected the degree to which
public agencies were able to deliver services to a community.
In Postville, a bilingual social service worker from nearby
Decorah, Iowa, who already had immigrant families on her
caseload before the raid, came to St. Bridget’s Church during
the week following to help others apply for benefits. In Grand
Island, immigrants distrusted the Nebraska DHHS because
an immigrant mother had nearly lost custody of her children
before the raid following a child protective services removal
and her deportation. Yet outreach efforts there still proved
successful in getting public benefits to a significant number of
families caught up in the raid—at least in our study sample.
3. Many community responders, especially in worksite
raid sites, used a “disaster-relief model.”
When a worksite raid captures a sizeable number of immigrant workers, it sends a shockwave throughout the resident
community of immigrants, as well as the broader community.
The community reaction is typically swift. Three of the study
communities that experienced worksite raids—Grand Island,
New Bedford, and Postville—developed, to one degree or
another, what could be considered a disaster-relief approach for
addressing the short-term needs of affected families.
On the day of the raids, community organizations,
churches, and local government engaged in rapid information
dissemination to initiate an immediate response. While in Van
Nuys the Los Angeles Independent School District had virtually no reaction, the schools in Grand Island, New Bedford,
and Postville conducted teacher briefings and launched efforts
to ensure children were not stranded and had access to services
to address the emotional trauma associated with these raids.
As in natural disasters, the media played an important
role in disseminating information to community leaders
and officials. Community organizations and churches
63

commenced fundraising and preparing their facilities for
use as sanctuaries. Community organizations mobilized
their staffs to be present at the worksite and (when
response staff included lawyers) at the detention centers. If
they did not already exist, coalitions consisting of community organizations, churches, schools, and sometimes local
government were quickly formed to more effectively coordinate efforts, pool resources, and provide centralized
triage to match and refer services to eligible families.
Response efforts typically featured one or more centralized locations (e.g., churches, CBOs) where affected immigrants could present themselves to receive relief services. In
both Postville and New Bedford families were able to use central points of distribution: St. Bridget’s Church in Postville
and Our Lady of Guadalupe parish as well as the offices of
Catholic Social Services in New Bedford. This approach, by
all accounts, worked well for distributing short-term resources
and services to victims seeking assistance. In the other sites,
distribution centers had more difficulty reaching out to immigrants gripped by fear that they might be arrested while seeking assistance. Outreach to immigrant families in their homes
was somewhat effective in Grand Island.
Short-term humanitarian relief packages typically
included food, housing and utility assistance, clothing, health
services, and occasionally cash or gift cards and coupons for
gas or food. In some cases the hubs referred families to state
and federal aid programs such as Medicaid, CHIP, food
stamps, and unemployment insurance if the adults or children
were eligible, which the U.S.-born children usually were.
4. In Van Nuys, responders used a “community
organizing model.”
The Van Nuys response, driven by a community organizing
model of the problem, was unique in that it was largely
developed with a longer-term plan in mind. CHIRLA
focused its energies primarily on organizing affected families to join in a common effort to contest deportations.
CHIRLA’s legal service partners and other CBOs (e.g., Unite
Here Local 11) implemented a strategy to identify arrestees,
train them in leadership and organizing techniques, and
work with them to galvanize the other arrestees in support of
their common cause.
In a mirror image of the strengths and weaknesses of the
disaster-relief model, this alternative model generated some
concerns in the Latino community that the humanitarian
needs of victims’ families might not be adequately addressed.
64

Van Nuys was the one site we studied in which legal
resources exceeded humanitarian assistance following the
raid. However, the legal strategy began to show success a year
after the raid when an immigration judge dismissed one of
the deportation cases because of inhumane treatment at the
detention center. As described earlier in chapter 2, lawyers in
Van Nuys were also successful in contesting the legality of
the raid itself, which suspended the deportation of between
60 and 70 immigrants. Further, they were able to get work
permits for 30–35 immigrants for cooperating with the prosecution against Micro Solutions. These legal victories have
generated momentum for immigrant-organizing efforts there
(with help from CHIRLA), and community support for
these efforts has grown with their success.
5. All sites, particularly those using a disaster-relief
model, had to confront the challenge of long-run as well
as short-run assistance.
As each of these sites illustrated, children and families often
had long-term needs, particularly given the time required for
the legal process to play out. For the most part, CBOs, local
governments, and churches in our study sites adjusted their
responses over time due to funding constraints and changes
in the volume and needs of immigrant families. The shortterm disaster model was often effective in soliciting one-time
or limited-duration donations from organizations, businesses,
and, in one case, a philanthropist. Moreover, there was a
noticeable synergy produced by cooperating organizations in
response to a common emergency. Over time, however,
maintaining that momentum and dedication can be taxing to
individual donors and staff alike, especially for those organizations for which direct relief is not specifically a part of
their mission.
Two sites merit special attention for their ability to provide longer-term support to immigrant families: Postville
and New Bedford. In Postville, over the course of a year,
St. Bridget’s Church raised over $900,000 from a web site,
faith-based networks, and national fundraising appeals. This
sum was necessary to support families for over a year after the
raid, with humanitarian relief costing $80,000 per month at
its peak. St. Bridget’s also provided some funding to offset
legal costs (e.g., costs of filing applications for visas), although
most legal assistance was provided pro bono.
In New Bedford, because some affected immigrants were
able to find temporary work, the demand for emergency assistance for basic needs diminished about three months after the

raid. This allowed much more of an ongoing focus on the
legal cases of detainees and their families. Catholic Charities,
GBLS, and other legal aid organizations continued to provide
representation services as immigrants applied for U-visas and
other forms of relief from deportation. Transportation
emerged as another long-term need that was continually met
by CBOs, especially for getting individuals to court hearings.
Our Lady of Guadalupe and Maya K’iche partnered to
address this need. A sewing cooperative was started with
donated sewing machines, and this proved to have therapeutic
benefits to participants, as well as leading some of them to
start their own businesses selling bags. A year after the raid,
New Bedford school teachers were regularly meeting with the
Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts to
continue discussing the needs of affected children, and community organizations began shifting their services to immigrant integration (e.g., English language instruction).
6. Humanitarian assistance and legal representation
were both important.
One significant finding from the sites is the importance of
legal representation to help immigrants contest their deportation. In fact, the most important benefit an immigrant can
receive after being arrested in a raid is a work permit, visa, or
other mechanism to stay in the country legally and work.
Only legal presence in the United States and the opportunity
to work can ameliorate parent-child separation and economic
hardship among affected families in the long run. As illustrated in the site descriptions above, there was great unevenness in the availability of high-quality legal advice. Smaller,
more isolated places like Grand Island and Postville were able
to generate significant disaster-relief efforts aimed at providing
humanitarian assistance, but they had much more difficulty
finding needed legal resources. This was because these
resources are much more specialized and less dispersed across
the country. A handful of lawyers took on all the cases in both
of these sites, and in both sites most arrested immigrants went
unrepresented. In Postville, one pro bono lawyer launched a
deportation defense effort on behalf of more than 50 clients.
By contrast, the Rapid Response Network in Van Nuys
included 45 attorneys. The majority of New Bedford arrestees
who chose to fight deportation and the entire Van Nuys
group found representation. Even though most cases in New
Bedford and Van Nuys were still pending more than a year
after the raids, in the long-term a number of some significant
legal victories were obtained. Greater resources possibly could

have been available for deportation defense in Miami, but
most of our sample of arrested Haitians there had little to no
recourse available to them against deportation.
The availability of humanitarian assistance followed a
different pattern across our sites. Surprisingly, the greatest
funding for humanitarian resources was raised following the
raid in the smallest site: Postville. Grand Island, which is also
a relatively small and isolated community, also benefitted
from a significant fundraising effort including the raided
employer and FBOs. The arrestees in New Bedford benefitted
from their proximity to Boston in terms of humanitarian
assistance, just as they had in terms of legal representation:
MIRA and the local church dioceses raised significant sums
in the Boston area, and the Community Foundation of
Southeastern Massachusetts also provided support.
The other two major urban areas in our study—Los
Angeles and Miami—had much less thorough fundraising
and humanitarian response efforts. In both sites, the small
number of arrestees relative to the overall immigrant population (and relative to large, ongoing ICE operations across the
area) meant much less media and community attention to
the plight of arrestees. This made fundraising and mounting
a relief operation more difficult in these areas.
Finally, in Rogers-Springdale, both humanitarian and
legal resources were limited. This partly reflected the climate
toward immigrants in the area, including the active participation of city and county governments in immigration
enforcement as well as anti-immigrant sentiment in those
communities more generally. It also reflected the fact that, as
in Miami, the arrests were scattered across a widespread area
over a long period of time and generated far less media and
community attention than the large workplace raid sites we
studied.

Successes and Challenges of Institutions
Providing Assistance
We next summarize the characteristics of community
responses that appeared to be effective in addressing the
needs of families, as well as some of the challenges faced by
response efforts.

Successes
Coalitions. In general, a single CBO, church, or agency
cannot address the myriad of family needs that result from
65

ICE enforcement in a community. The more effective coalitions covered many basic needs as well as legal and health
services, and some included psychological counseling. These
coalitions included churches, faith-based and community
organizations, legal services, public schools, local government,
and businesses.
St. Bridget’s Church was somewhat of an exception,
because it was able to raise funding and sustain an extraordinary humanitarian relief effort (costing almost $1 million) for
more than a year. However, even though St. Bridget’s coordinated and disbursed virtually all of this assistance, the
fundraising and media efforts were coordinated with community leaders and other religious organizations both within and
outside Postville. St. Bridget’s also benefitted from significant
logistical support from a statewide network that included
Catholic Charities of Iowa and staffing during the relief effort
from Luther College in Decorah.
Balanced combination of humanitarian and legal
services. As we have seen, both humanitarian and legal services
were very important to families. On the one hand, good
legal services, while hard to find, turned out to be crucial.
Legal services allowed some arrested immigrants to obtain
legal status that allowed them to stay in the United States
with their families and obtain employment. On the other
hand, the longer their deportation cases were open, the more
humanitarian assistance these families needed. The comprehensive relief efforts in New Bedford and Postville were able
to adequately support legal assistance and humanitarian needs
until immigrants either succeeded in obtaining relief from
deportation or were deported. But these operations were very
well coordinated and expensive (or required intensive in-kind
and pro bono labor), and lasted for more than a year.
Schools as safe havens. In three of our sites—Grand
Island, New Bedford, and Postville—schools provided safe
havens for children in the immediate aftermath of the raids
and were able to retain students in the longer term. These
schools were successful in retaining the trust of the immigrant community, including affected families. They were
also by and large successful in keeping students engaged in
learning. All three districts provided counseling for affected
students. In Springdale, the schools also attempted to
address the impacts of parental arrests on students, but the
effectiveness of their efforts was more difficult to gauge,
because the scattered nature of the raids there made it difficult to pull a sample of affected children in any one school.
The public schools in Miami and Van Nuys did not mount
66

significant responses to raids and arrests in those locations,
and we do not know how well children fared academically
afterward.
Engagement by state and local government. Government
support was evident and helpful in several of the sites. In
Grand Island and Postville, government support provided
public benefits to help families through difficult economic
periods, even though in these sites the elected officials were
not outspoken. In New Bedford, having staff from public
agencies such as MDSS argue on behalf of children for their
families’ reunification, as well as having elected officials raise
concerns about the impacts of the raid on immigrant families
and the broader community, helped restore some trust in
needed civic institutions, such as local schools.
Culturally tailored outreach. A solid understanding of the
languages and cultures in immigrant communities is a key to
providing effective services to these communities. Across our
sites, churches and CBOs showed the most cultural competency in addressing the needs of affected families. In general,
churches were active in Latino communities and had Spanishspeaking capacity, although this capacity was somewhat limited in the smaller study communities of Grand Island and
Postville. In Grand Island, New Bedford, and Postville, language access and cultural competency were further complicated by the fact that many arrestees were from groups such as
the Maya K’iche from Guatemala that speak rare indigenous
languages. Community leaders who were originally from
Guatemala played instrumental roles in the delivery of services
in all three of these sites.
Public agencies also showed a degree of cultural and linguistic competence in some of our sites. In Postville, a bilingual English-Spanish caseworker from the Iowa DHS office
in nearby Decorah worked closely with St. Bridget’s Church
to link affected families with public assistance. In Grand
Island, the regional Nebraska DHHS director was from
Guatemala, as were some of the social workers; they were
also able to connect some affected families with benefits. The
public resources available to the New Bedford arrestees were
much greater: the leadership of MDSS and three dozen bilingual social workers were all involved in obtaining the
release of parents.

Challenges
Sustaining service delivery. Sustaining relief after a period
of three to six months was a principal challenge in all of our

sites except for Postville. Persistent needs included legal
services, transportation (especially in larger communities and
those lacking public transportation), counseling, and humanitarian assistance in cases where arrested immigrants remained
in limbo and could not work. In the early months, fundraising and donations were generally secured within the community and from nearby communities. With the progression of
time, contributions faded while the needs of families in periods of prolonged detention or with drawn-out deportation
cases increased (as resources from friends and families
declined). Thus, fundraising from a broader base of support—
as was done with national campaigns for Postville—became
important to sustain service delivery.
Translation and interpretation. The need for bilingual
staff for triage and service delivery was another common
challenge across the sites. In communities like Postville and
Rogers-Springdale, where immigrant communities were
newer and relatively small, it was difficult to find Spanish
language capacity. Even in the larger, more diverse areas, it
was difficult to find interpretation for rarer languages such
as those spoken by indigenous Guatemalans. In Miami,
Haitian Creole interpreters were difficult to find.
Transportation. In Postville, Grand Island, and New
Bedford, it was difficult to obtain transportation to and from
immigration hearings, appointments with lawyers, and bond
postings—as ICE and attorneys’ offices were mostly located
several hours away. In some cases, appointments with attorneys had to be done over the phone or on site, requiring the
lawyers to travel frequently over long distances. Arrestees in
Postville also had to travel to nearby Decorah for medical
appointments at the free clinic and for renewal of public assistance. In both New Bedford and Postville, the church and
community organizations arranged private transportation
for these immigrants.
In Rogers and Springdale it became dangerous for
unauthorized immigrants to drive at all, given that many of
the 287(g) arrests were from roadblocks or traffic stops.
Advocates and community leaders arranged transportation
for immigrants in Rogers and Springdale on an ad hoc basis.
Mobilizing community efforts when there is no single, largescale raid. It was relatively difficult to mobilize responses in
Miami and Rogers-Springdale because there was no single crisis in need of a response and no major coverage of events in
the media. Very few people in the community knew who the
arrested immigrants were, as they were not identified by a single employer. It was generally left to their families or friends

to approach community leaders for support. There was also
very little basis for targeted outreach under such circumstances, because there was no single employer, neighborhood,
or period of time on which to focus outreach efforts.
Finding legal representation can be difficult in more remote
communities. Finally, securing legal services was much more
difficult in remote locations like Grand Island, Postville, and
Rogers-Springdale, where there were few or no practicing
immigration attorneys. Efforts following the Postville raid to
link Iowa attorneys with a national base of legal support were
largely ineffective. Attorneys specializing in deportation
defense simply could not be recruited to work in remote, rural
Iowa on a pro bono basis, and even with nearly $1 million in
funding, the St. Bridget’s relief effort could not afford to pay
salary and travel costs for attorneys to come to Postville from
outside Iowa.
*****
The community responses we studied across our six sites
illustrate some of the complexities and difficulties of supporting families with children in the aftermath of immigration
enforcement activity. As we described earlier, whether a parent is arrested, deported, or released under supervision, families typically lose a breadwinner, resulting in economic
hardship and reliance on charity or public benefits. In the
immediate aftermath of the large worksite raids in three of
our sites—Grand Island, New Bedford, and Postville—
communities mobilized assistance for affected families.
Sources of support varied, but in general these relief efforts
were expensive, approaching $1 million in Postville. Without
a well-publicized raid as a catalyst, there was no such mobilization in Arkansas and Miami, leaving families there without an emergency response safety net.
A confluence of participants were involved, including
churches, community organizations, nonprofit service
providers (e.g., United Way agencies), state and local government agencies, employers and labor unions. These relief
efforts were complicated because of the families’ many needs
(housing, utilities, food, and other basic needs) and because
they had to be maintained for so long (for several months in
Grand Island and New Bedford, and for more than a year in
some cases in Postville).
Legal assistance was a crucial component of these relief
efforts, and it was often expensive and difficult to obtain.
Immigration law is a complex field, and there is a limited supply of qualified attorneys to defend deportation cases across
the country. In general, it was easier to find legal resources in
67

locations near some of the major cities—New Bedford and
Van Nuys—than in the smaller, more remote communities
we studied. In Grand Island and Postville there were no qualified lawyers in the community, and so a handful of outside
lawyers had to take on these cases. The deportation cases still
being contested more than two years after the Grand Island
and New Bedford raids show how long the need for this assistance can last, and how long the families contesting their
deportation remain in limbo.
Our review of impacts on children and families, along
with the community responses described in this chapter, show
the many difficulties experienced by families following a parent’s arrest. These difficulties are especially apparent following
many of the individual arrests that were not the result of

68

large-scale raids. The families affected by individual enforcement activities do not get the publicity, the mobilized
response, or the community support that many of those
arrested in worksite raids receive. While the new leadership at
the Department of Homeland Security has significantly curtailed the use of large-scale worksite raids, the 287(g) program
has recently expanded to deputize immigration enforcement
powers to more local police departments, and FOT arrests
have continued at much the same rate. As long as immigration enforcement activities continue, we need to consider how
to meet the goals of enforcement while mitigating the very
serious impacts on the thousands of children directly affected
and the millions more potentially at risk. This is the focus of
attention in the concluding chapter of this report.

6. FACING OUR FUTURE: CONCLUSIONS
AND RECOMMENDATIONS
he U. S. government is embarking on what promises to be a renewed round of spirited debate about reforming the
country’s immigration system. In November 2009, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano called on the
Congress to reconsider a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that would include some form of legal status
for most of the country’s 11 to 12 million unauthorized immigrants.69 Many of the issues underlying the immigration debate
are perennial: the aging U.S. workforce and need for immigrant workers, competition with U.S.-born workers, the fiscal costs
of immigration, security and sovereignty concerns, respect for the law, civil rights, and the potential benefits of diversity in an
increasingly globalized economy.

T

This report, like our predecessor report Paying the Price,
focuses on one of the issues that has not been central in the
debate: the impact of our current immigration policies on
the 5.5 million U.S. children with unauthorized parents.
These children account for 7 percent, or 1 in 14, of all children living in the United States. They and their families are
by and large well integrated into the communities where
they live, with the vast majority of the parents working70
and the children attending school.71 However, these children have an uncertain future in this country. Because their
parents can be arrested and removed at any time, they live in
tenuous circumstances, not knowing whether they can
count on their families remaining whole or on this country
remaining their home. Children who find themselves with a
parent arrested for an immigration violation suffer further
potential barriers to their well-being and integration, includ-

69

Melanie Trottman, 2009, “Immigrant Bill Is Back on the
Table,” Wall Street Journal, November 14.
70 Passel and Cohn, 2009.
71 For a full discussion of the integration of immigrants and
their children—along with difficulties they face in poor urban
communities—see Alejandro Portes and Rubén G. Rumbaut,
2001, Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation, Los
Angeles: University of California Press, and Rubén G. Rumbaut
and Alejandro Portes, 2001, Ethnicities: Children of Immigrants in
America, Los Angeles: University of California Press.

ing the loss of parental support, economic hardship, and
emotional difficulties.
About two-thirds of the children in our study sample
are U.S.-born citizens,72 entitled to remain in the country
and to receive the full benefits and responsibilities of citizenship. As American children they are a critically important
component of the future U.S. workforce, needed to support
a growing economy and an aging population. Their futures
are for the nation to support or circumscribe, and the
nation’s future is theirs to make. The question, then, is what
future we choose.

Summary of Findings
Many of the findings discussed in the preceding chapters provide ample cause for concern. Our findings highlight the difficulty of balancing different policy objectives: the need for
enforcement of immigration laws and our desire to preserve
the integrity of families and promote the best interests of children. Despite the actions of their parents, the children bear
no fault and as this report has shown, they experience deeply
damaging consequences from immigration enforcement. In
72 This is comparable to the estimated 73 percent of all 5.5 million
children of unauthorized immigrants that are U.S.-born citizens,
Passel and Cohn, 2009.

69

several other areas of U.S. policy—child welfare, education,
and the distribution of public benefits—the primary objectives are to protect children from harm and to advance their
prospects regardless of their starting points in life. Yet such
protections and opportunities to prosper are jeopardized
when parents are caught up in immigration enforcement
actions.
The discussion in the previous chapters highlights several
significant findings that the American public and its leaders
should take into account as part of the immigration debate.

Family Separation
The separation of children from their parents is one of the
most direct results of immigration arrests. Such separations
were common in our sample, though in a large majority of
cases at least one parent was able to remain with the children
because he or she was either not arrested or released under
supervision. Our sample included many cases in which parents were held for weeks or months in detention following
their arrest, and it likely underrepresents these cases because
we could not interview parents in detention. In most of our
sample, two-parent families became single-parent families,
although in a few cases children stayed with other relatives or
friends for an extended period.
ICE’s humanitarian guidelines for large-scale worksite
raids, which mandate release of single parents and those with
needy children, reduced the frequency of family separation,
especially in the Van Nuys raid. The application of ankle
bracelets with tracking devices allowed ICE to continue to
monitor arrestees without requiring detention—clearly
a better outcome from the families’ point of view. Yet in
Postville—where so many parents were charged criminally—
and in the nonworksite arrests in Miami and RogersSpringdale, detentions were more widespread and caused
prolonged separations from at least one parent in a majority
of cases. When criminal charges mandating detention are
involved, it may be more difficult for ICE to consider alternatives to detention.
We also documented short-term family separations in
our previous study, Paying the Price, but in the current
study we interviewed some families more than a year after
the parent was arrested. In our long-term sample, a significant number of parents had been or were soon to be
deported. Deportation created difficult choices for parents, who had to decide whether to leave the country with
70

their families intact or leave their children behind in the
United States with the other parent or another relative.
There currently is no legal remedy for deportation of a
parent based on harm to a child, unless a child is very sick
or in other extremely unusual circumstances.73 Thus, in
our sample, arrested immigrants had to seek other forms
of relief—asylum, domestic violence, and crime victimization, primarily, rather than separation or harm to their
children, to try to avoid deportation.
There is no clear or easy choice in this heart-wrenching
decision that no parent ever wants to face, as illustrated by the
mixture of responses in our sample, with some parents leaving
children and others taking them with them. In a significant
number of cases, couples were split and siblings were split—
some leaving and some staying. Our time frame was not long
enough to assess the impacts on children who faced separations following deportation. Some deported parents were
clearly worried enough about their children and families to
risk illegal reentry to be reunited with them. In one case, a
parent died making the return journey.

Family Economic Hardship, Housing Instability,
and Food Insufficiency
Steep declines in household income, economic hardship, and
reliance on informal support, community charity, or public
assistance were typical of sampled families with arrested parents. In all of the worksite raids, families lost breadwinners—

73

Before 1996, when determining deportation cases, immigration
judges could weigh length of U.S. residency, standing in the community, and hardship to children against immigration and criminal
charges. But in 1996 IIRIRA narrowed judicial discretion by mandating deportation for immigrants convicted of a wide range of
crimes and those without 10 years of continuous physical presence
in the United States—regardless of potential harm to children in
the family (8 U.S.C. § 1229b). As a practical matter, this means it
is almost impossible for immigrants who entered the country illegally or those with even minor criminal offenses to have their
deportation canceled by immigration judges, even when severe
hardship to their children could result. For more on the difficulties
of appealing deportation based on hardship to children, see James
D. Kremer, Kathleen A. Moccio, and Joseph W. Hammell, 2009,
“Severing a Lifeline: The Neglect of Citizen Children in America’s
Immigration Enforcement Policy,” Minneapolis: Dorsey and
Whitney, LLP. For a fuller description of the IIRIRA provisions
affecting deportation decisions, see Donald Kerwin, 1999, “How
Our Immigration Laws Divide, Impoverish, and Undermine
American Families,” Interpreter Releases 31(76): 1213–26.

who almost always had full-time jobs and consistent
employment histories, albeit at mostly low-wage jobs. Family
breadwinners were also arrested in the cases we studied in
Miami and Rogers-Springdale. In all of the sites in our
sample—with the exception of Van Nuys—very few families
had access to work following arrests. It was more difficult for
people to find work in the smaller communities, especially
Postville, where the raided plant was the area’s primary
employer. When parents were released with ankle bracelets
and monitored, it was nearly impossible for them to find
another job.
We found that lost incomes were associated with housing instability. Some families lost their homes or their
ability to pay rent, while others moved in with relatives to
control costs, and still others—in Postville—were asked by
charities to move in together to save on rental assistance.
Across our study sites, many children wound up moving
often and living in crowded conditions. Such instability can
have adverse consequences for children, especially when
coupled with other related material hardships and increased
family stress.
Families in our study sample reported high levels of food
hardship—many times the levels in nationally representative
samples—as indicated by difficulty affording food and by
parents cutting meals, skipping meals, or going hungry to
feed their children. As in other studies of food hardship,
parents reported that the children themselves rarely went
hungry, but in many cases they worried that their children’s
diets were not adequate to ensure good health.
These findings reinforce some of the short-term hardships we reported in Paying the Price, while also showing that
some of these conditions can persist over a much longer time
frame. Housing instability and food hardship lasted for many
months, and even more than a year for some of the families
in our long-term sample.
Economic hardship was prolonged by parental detention
and by the inability of parents to work while they were contesting their deportation. We did not interview many families
where parents were deported right away after their arrest—
a common outcome in the first raid we studied in Grand
Island—because we did not interview parents after they left
the country. Most parents in our workplace raid sites were
either detained for a period and then released, or released
under bond or with electronic monitoring. Most of the parents chose to stay and contest their deportation. Their
attempts to obtain relief from deportation lasted more than

six months in almost every case, more than a year in many
cases, and more than two years (and counting) in some cases.
In the cases of home raids and arrests by local police in our
sample, parents were less likely to be released and were generally detained for a period of months and then deported.

Child Behavior
Changes in child behavior represented a new focus of the
current study, and parents in our sample reported many significant changes following raids and other arrests. Parents
reported a large majority of children had difficulties sleeping
and eating in the months immediately following the raids and
other arrests, and a majority of children also cried often and
clung to their parents. These behavioral changes subsided
somewhat over time, but were still widespread more than
six months after the raids or other arrests. Difficulties eating
and sleeping, excessive crying, and clinging to parents were
most common among younger children, while aggressive and
withdrawn behavior was more common among the older
children. There were mixed effects on children’s behavior in
school, and in many cases schools were supportive environments that helped children cope. School absenteeism often
increased in the short run, and in some cases, children lost
their motivation for school. Overall, however, the evidence
about academic difficulties among children in the sample
was mixed, and in the longer term, some children were
reported to be doing a little better than before the arrest,
while others showed a bit of a slide. We may not have had a
time frame long enough to observe deterioration in academic
performance. Moreover, the schools were very supportive
of the children in the smaller communities we studied—
especially Grand Island, New Bedford, and Postville—
which may have ameliorated some of the psychological
impacts on children following parental arrest.

Community Response
St. Bridget’s Church in Postville launched the most comprehensive humanitarian response of any group that we studied,
but there were also large-scale community responses to the
workplace raids in New Bedford, Grand Island, and Van
Nuys. Coordination of services by a coalition or church,
strong fundraising and publicity efforts, and provision of
services through trusted locations such as churches and
community-based organizations were common features in
71

Postville, Grand Island, and New Bedford. Provision of
charity for housing, utilities, food, and other necessities
for a period of months was common in all three of these
sites. Humanitarian assistance was less comprehensive and
less well coordinated in Van Nuys, where the response
focused more on linking families to legal assistance. Nearly
all the arrestees in Van Nuys were released, and it was comparatively less difficult—though by no means easy—for
them to find new work following the raid.
Unlike Paying the Price, our current study also focuses
on impacts and community responses in sites where immigrants were arrested in smaller-scale operations. This focus is
especially important given the trend away from large-scale
worksite raids toward more widespread arrests through FOTs
and the 287(g) program. In two of our sites—Miami and
Rogers-Springdale—there were no large-scale raids, and as a
result, no significant publicity, fundraising, or private assistance for affected families in these locations. We found
family hardship to be just as high, if not higher in Miami
and Rogers-Springdale than in the other sites, but we found
levels of assistance to affected families to be much lower.
Among our study’s workplace raid sites, legal assistance
and efforts to contest deportation appear to have been most
effective in New Bedford and Van Nuys, where most of those
arrested contested their deportations. A significant share have
been successful, and many of the remaining cases continue to
be adjudicated. Fewer people were able to contest their deportation in Postville, because most had also been charged
criminally; however, about two dozen had received relief
from deportation a year and a half after the raid. Legal assistance was least successful in Grand Island, the earliest of our
raid sites, where more parents took voluntary departure and
fewer contested their deportation. It may be that over time,
owing to national- and state-level organizing efforts, lawyers
became better equipped to assist immigrants caught up in
raids. It may also be that new legal remedies—such as the
U-visa for victims of crime—became more widely used. This
was certainly the case in Postville, where most of those succeeding in contesting their deportation received U-visas.
In our two nonworkplace raid sites, however, legal remedies like U-visas were unavailable. Almost all of the Haitians
arrested in Miami were on a final deportation order list,
meaning that relief from deportation was very difficult.
Immigrants in Rogers-Springdale were in some cases arrested
for working illegally, but most were brought in on traffic violations and other criminal charges. Once they were charged
72

criminally, obtaining relief from immigration enforcement
became much more difficult.

The Policy Context
Our research was conducted during 2008 and early 2009,
and the parents in our sample were arrested between 2006
and 2008. The period of study was one of intense enforcement activity, with a significant increase in the total number
of arrests, detentions, and deportations over previous years
overall—and specifically in worksite and home raids. This
was a period of rapid expansion in enforcement and detention for ICE and its partner agencies. Some of the widespread confusion and difficulties faced by the families,
communities, lawyers, and other responders in our study
may have been the result of inevitable growing pains due to
rapid expansion of ICE’s operations during this period. One
beneficial policy change during the period of study was the
release of humanitarian guidelines for parents arrested in
workplace raids of 150 or more arrests.

Replacing Worksite Raids with Other Employer
Enforcement Strategies
Enforcement has continued at a rapid pace since the Obama
administration took office in 2009, but there have also been
several significant shifts in enforcement policy. First, there
has been a major change of direction in worksite enforcement. ICE applied the humanitarian guidelines to all worksite raids of 25 or more arrests, and following a small raid in
Washington State in February 2009, there have been no further workplace raids. Instead, DHS has focused on expanding
and improving E-Verify, an electronic system for verifying
work authorization that was piloted several years ago and is
now mandatory for all federal contractors and voluntary for
most other employers. In November 2009, approximately
170,000 U.S. businesses were using the system.74 During
2009 ICE also concentrated on auditing employers, leading
to fines against several dozen employers and the firing of

74

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 2009, “Secretary
Napolitano, ICE Assistant Secretary Morton and USCIS Director
Mayorkas Announce New Campaign to Recognize Employers
Committed to Maintaining a Legal Workforce,” Press Release,
November 19, http://www.ice.gov/pi/nr/0911/091119washingtondc.
htm.

several thousand unauthorized workers.75 These audits and
firings may inflict economic hardship on immigrant families
as parents lose their jobs—a topic worthy of further study.
However, they avert some of the most adverse consequences
for families, including the stigma of arrest, family separation,
and anxiety about parental deportation.

and 287(g) agreements could theoretically lead to a much
larger number of arrests and deportations, but targeting the
focus of these efforts on immigrants who have committed
serious crimes could potentially reduce the scope of these
programs.78

Continuing Arrests by Fugitive Operations Teams
Expanding Operations to Arrest
and Deport Criminal Aliens
ICE has continued to expand its operations to arrest, detain,
and deport unauthorized immigrants with criminal histories. Despite the controversies surrounding the program,
ICE signed 287(g) agreements with several new state and
local law enforcement agencies in late 2009.76 ICE also renegotiated most of the older agreements, and a few jurisdictions dropped out of the program. During the negotiations
and in new contracts, ICE emphasized that 287(g) programs
should focus primarily on serious criminals, and that participating agencies should not conduct random sweeps or
arrest immigrants without criminal histories. But ICE has
allowed participating jurisdictions to continue some streetlevel operations. Moreover, ICE has expanded the Secure
Communities program, which allows for electronic screening of the immigration status of all inmates when they are
booked, with the goal of screening all inmates in state and
local prisons by 2013.77 Together with an expanded set of
287(g) agreements, Secure Communities will cast a much
wider net to find and deport unauthorized immigrants with
criminal histories. The expansion of Secure Communities

ICE has also stated that it will continue operations to identify,
detain, and deport unauthorized immigrants with outstanding
deportation orders. ICE is continuing large sweeps by FOTs
but focusing more on immigrants who have committed serious
crimes. For instance, during three days in early December
2009, FOTs conducted their largest single sweep to date.
The FOTs arrested almost 300 immigrants in California,
about 80 percent of whom had committed violent or other
serious crimes.79 At the same time, ICE is releasing some of
those caught up in the FOT sweeps.80 About 30,000 Haitians
remain on a final deportation list, and ICE may continue
to target this population for deportation.81 Advocates have
requested that the federal government extend TPS to Haitians
to prevent their deportation, but as of late 2009 there had
not been any progress on this issue.

Redesigning the Detention System
There have been criticisms—some of which are reflected in
this report—of ICE detention policies for separating families,
detaining children, moving detainees to inaccessible locations,
preventing communication with lawyers and family members,
and contracting out detention to private companies with poor

75

In May 2009, American Apparel, a garment manufacturer in Los
Angeles, fired 1,800 immigrants after an ICE audit (Neil A. Lewis,
2009, “Immigration Officials to Audit 1,000 More Companies,”
New York Times, November 20). For an overview of ICE’s new
worksite enforcement policy, see Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, 2009, “Worksite Enforcement Strategy,” Fact Sheet,
April 30, http://www.ice.gov/doclib/pi/news/factsheets/worksite_
strategy.pdf. For a description of results of the new policy as of
November 2009, see Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
2009, “ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton Announces 1,000
New Workplace Audits to Hold Employers Accountable for Their
Hiring Practices,” Press Release, November 19,
http://www.ice.gov/pi/nr/0911/091119washingtondc2.htm.
76 Randal C. Archibald, 2009, “U.S. Alters Disputed Immigration
Rules for Police,” New York Times, October 16.
77 Chris Strohm, 2009, “Search for Illegal Immigrants Widens,”
Congress Daily, November 12.

78

A significant concern remains that 287(g) and other state and
local coordination programs have resulted in increasing numbers of
immigrants being referred to ICE due to immigration violations or
minor crimes. For statistics on the charges against immigrants
referred into ICE detention from these various programs, see
Schriro, 2009, pp. 12–13.
79
Randal C. Archibald, 2009, “Immigration Officials Arrest 300 in
California,” New York Times, December 11.
80
For example, a group of immigrants arrested by FOTs in New
Jersey were recently released, under supervision and with work permits, while they contest their deportation. A local church has
developed a compact with ICE to help supervise these immigrants.
Nina Bernstein, 2009, “New Jersey Church Works with U.S. to
Spare Immigrants Detention,” New York Times, December 12.
81
Kirk Semple, 2009, “Haitians in U.S. Illegally Look for Signs of
a Deporting Reprieve,” New York Times, May 27.
73

track records in how they treat detainees. In October 2009,
DHS released a report with recommendations for a major
overhaul of the immigration detention system,82 which would
include keeping only persons with serious criminal records in
secure settings, developing less secure facilities for detainees
without criminal records or who otherwise present little risk
to others, using alternatives to detention more often, keeping
detainees in major metropolitan areas closer to their families
and attorneys, and providing easier access to and communication with detainees. Given the size of the current system—
over 30,000 detainees in more than 200 facilities on any
given night—such an overhaul would be a large and complex undertaking. But further increasing alternatives to
detention and developing a system that allows family members better access to detainees would clearly benefit children
with arrested parents.

Setting the Context for Immigration Reform
The Obama administration has announced its intention to
seek another round of debate over comprehensive immigration reform starting in 2010, although the amount of support
in Congress is uncertain. Comprehensive reform bills failed
twice in 2006 and 2007, in part due to the impression that
enforcement efforts had not been successful. The Obama
administration and one of the key proponents of reform,
Senator Charles Schumer, have stated that any new reform
effort would focus on enforcement first, followed by legalization.83 The administration and DHS are making the case that
enforcement is succeeding, based on an historic reduction in
Southwest border apprehensions (which are down about
two-thirds since 2000), a high level of deportations (which
rose 65 percent to 387,000 in the fiscal year ending in
September 2009), and employer enforcement efforts via
E-Verify alongside a growing number of workplace investigations and fines.84 As was the case in 2006 and 2007, there is a

82

Schriro, 2009.
Julia Preston, 2009, “White House Plan on Immigration Includes
Legal Status,” New York Times, November 13; Senator Charles E.
Schumer, 2009, “Schumer Announces Principles for Comprehensive
Immigration Reform Bill in Works in Senate,” June 24, http://
schumer.senate.gov/new_website/record.cfm?id=314990.
84 Melanie Trottman, 2009, “Immigrant Bill Is Back on Table,”
Wall Street Journal, November 14; Manuel Valdes, 2009, “Criminal Deportations Spike in Pacific Northwest,” Associated Press,
November 19.

continuing pressure to prove that enforcement is working,
and this could lead to increasing arrests and deportations.

Recommendations
In this climate of change, it is particularly important that the
evidence about impacts of immigration enforcement on children informs policy decisions and implementation. The following recommendations draw on the findings of our research:

Changes to Current Immigration Laws
1. Congress should modify current immigration law to
take into account the circumstances and interests of all
children, especially U.S. citizen children, during deportation proceedings.
In 1996, IIRIRA set the stage for many of the sweeping
enforcement operations undertaken by ICE and state and
local law enforcement agencies in recent years. It authorized
the federal government to enter into agreements with state
and local agencies to enforce immigration laws, and expanded
the range of crimes for which immigrants must be detained
and can be deported. Most importantly for our research,
the 1996 law limited relief from deportation. Among other
changes, it removed the discretion of immigration judges to
weigh the significant harm that would result to a U.S. citizen
child of a deported parent in considering this relief.85
We recommend modification of these provisions, either
as part of a comprehensive reform bill or as stand-alone legislation, as follows.
First, the law should be amended so that a U.S. citizen
child under age 18, with representation from a legal guardian
(i.e., a guardian ad litem), should be allowed by law to petition for the lawful admission and residency of his or her
parent through the family immigration process for immediate relatives. This would require an amendment to the definition of “immediate relative” in current law (which includes
spouses and children of adult legal residents) to include the
parents of minor children.86

83

74

85

Kremer, Moccio, and Hammell, 2009; Kerwin, 1999.
It would also be necessary to revise the requirements in IIRIRA
around the affidavits of support, which require sponsors to document family incomes at or above 125 percent of the federal poverty
level to petition for their relatives. This requirement would preclude most children from sponsoring their parents. For more on
affidavits of support see Kerwin, 1999.

86

Prioritizing the admission of parents with minor citizen
children would be the broadest change to current law and
could be an important provision of a comprehensive reform
bill. Comprehensive reform efforts could also make the parents of citizen children a priority group for establishing legal
residency, while requiring them to meet the same requirements as others in the population to be legalized (i.e., to pay
fines for illegal entry).
Second, the rights and interests of children during
deportation proceedings should be recognized by law.
Before IIRIRA, the law allowed immigration judges to
grant relief from deportation when it would cause hardship
to children, but IIRIRA raised the bar for such a determination to “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship”—a
standard that is seldom met in practice.87 In addition,
IIRIRA made immigrants with criminal charges and those
with insufficient consecutive time in the United States ineligible for such relief. We would recommend that Congress
establish an alternative standard such that if a parent’s
deportation were likely to cause substantial economic, psychological, or development hardship to children, the parent
could remain in the United States.88 We also recommend
that Congress allow immigration judges to evaluate deportation cases individually, as they did before 1996, and
weigh the potential harm to children against the seriousness
of immigration offenses, danger to the community, flight
risk, and other factors.89 Legislation revising the criteria for
relief from deportation based on hardship to a citizen child
has been introduced in recent years, and such legislation
would directly address this issue.90

87
8 U.S.C. § 1229b. A related issue is whether or not parents can
legally return to the United States after their deportation. Bars on
legal reentry currently run from 3 to 10 years for most deportees,
and hardship to a child is not a consideration in establishing these
bars (Kremer, Moccio, and Hammell, 2009).
88
For a fuller explanation, see Kremer, Moccio, and Hammell, 2009.
89
For more on this recommendation, see Kerwin, 1999.
90
In the 111th Congress, Rep. José Serrano and 33 cosponsors
introduced House Resolution 1176, the “Child Citizen Protection
Act,” which would “provide discretionary authority to an immigration judge to determine that an alien parent of a United States citizen child should not be ordered removed, deported, or excluded
from the United States.” OpenCongress bill summary, http://www.
opencongress.org/bill/110-h1176/show. Rep. Serrano and others
sponsored similar legislation in previous Congresses, but it failed to

Policy changes regarding the arrest, detention, and
release of parents can only go so far in ameliorating the
hardship of children in these circumstances. Deportation
inevitably results in either prolonged separation of the family
or the de facto deportation of children to the parents’ country of origin. Additionally, the removal of parents results
in economic hardship for children whether the children
remain in or leave the United States. Ultimately, children
would best be protected if immigration judges could weigh
the harm to children against other factors in considering
their parents’ deportation.
Finally, while it may seem largely symbolic, the
United States should indicate its strong commitment to
protecting the interests of children by signing on to and
ratifying the International Convention on the Rights of
the Child and bring detention and deportation standards
for parents to international norms.91 Signing on to the
convention would signal that the U.S. government is serious about extending protections to children into all aspects
of federal policy, including immigration enforcement. It
could also facilitate harmonizing protections for children
during immigration proceedings along the lines of those in
other countries. Only the United States and Somalia have
not signed the convention.92
Signing on to the convention, and most importantly,
making the appropriate adjustments to immigration laws
consistent with these international norms and with
American values are the main and most far-reaching
changes that the United States should make to protect
children from any harm that may result from the arrest of
their immigrant parents.

pass. Such protections for children against parental deportation are
also included in a Democratic comprehensive reform bill introduced
in the House in December 2009: the Immigration Reform for
America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009. For more information see, Immigration Policy Center, “Summary of the Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009,”
December 15, 2009, http://immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/
summary-comprehensive-immigration-reform-americas-securityand-prosperity-act-2009.
91 UNICEF, “Convention on the Rights of the Child,” August 28,
2008, http://www.unicef.org/crc/, accessed November 20, 2009.
92 Amnesty International USA, “Convention on the Rights of the
Child,” http://www.amnestyusa.org/children/convention-on-therights-of-the-child/page.do?id=1101777.
75

Changes in Immigration Enforcement Strategies
ICE should also continue to review and revise its enforcement
policies in a number of critical areas.93 This is important
because, given the difficulties experienced in 2006 and 2007 in
passing comprehensive immigration reform, the prognosis for
a successful bill in 2010 is uncertain. In addition, stand-alone
legislation protecting the rights of children in deportation proceedings has also been considered but not passed recently.
Without such legislative changes, the law instructs ICE to
arrest, detain, and deport unauthorized immigrants for a broad
variety of charges, and the agency will continue to experience
pressure to show results in terms of deporting large numbers of
immigrants, finding and removing criminal aliens, and targeting employers who hire unauthorized workers. Our specific
recommendations for enforcement changes are as follows:
2. ICE should continue the de facto moratorium on
worksite raids.
We applaud ICE’s apparent decision to stop large-scale
worksite raids and focus instead on investigating and fining
employers and increasing use of E-Verify. Our current and
previous work, along with the research of many others, has
highlighted the harmful child-specific and community-wide
effects of such raids due to their large numbers of arrests and
shows of force, which have overwhelmed many communities.
It is much more humane, practical, and effective to focus on
changing employer behavior, rather than punishing parents
for working and children for having working parents.
3. Law enforcement should allow alternatives to detention for arrested parents who represent neither a danger to
the community nor a flight risk in all types of enforcement operations, as long as mandatory detention rules do
not apply to these parents.
The humanitarian release rules that applied to the worksite
raids we studied in Postville and Van Nuys should apply to

93

Congress might choose to weigh in on ICE procedures during
enforcement operations, including several of the issues discussed
below. For instance, in the 111th Congress, Representative Lynn
Woolsey and seven cosponsors have introduced H.R. 3531, the
Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections for Separated
Children Act (HELP Act). The HELP Act would require ICE to
identify parents and other vulnerable populations apprehended during immigration enforcement activities, establish procedures for
treating parents and children respectfully during arrest and detention, and set guidelines for their release or placement into alternatives to detention programs.
76

arrests by FOTs and referrals from state and local law
enforcement agencies. The humanitarian guidelines ICE
issued in November 2007 regarding the quick release of parents in large-scale worksite raids made a significant difference for many families and children in Van Nuys and
Postville.
We observed worse impacts on family hardship and
children’s behavior in those cases where parents were
detained for long periods of time. The extension of these
humanitarian guidelines to cover raids in which 25 or more
workers are arrested and the absence of large-scale worksite
raids in the past year are positive developments. However,
until these guidelines cover the full range of enforcement
activities by ICE and its partner agencies, which result in a
larger number of arrests, most children will remain unprotected and family separations will continue to be a significant problem. On a broader scale, DHS and ICE are
currently reviewing detention policies, and as they do so, the
agencies should consider further developing alternatives to
detention for parents.
4. As ICE reforms the system, the agency should
develop supervised release policies and other alternative
forms of detention with the needs of parents and children in mind.
Our research also suggests that parent-child separation has
harmful effects on children over the long term. ICE has in
many cases established alternative forms of detention for parents during the period of weeks, months, and sometimes years
between arrest and eventual deportation. In particular, ICE
should consider alternatives to using ankle bracelets for longer
periods of time when other types of supervised release—
having less impact on mobility for the parent and less stigma
for the whole family—could be implemented, particularly if
this can be done without significantly compromising the goal
of monitoring.
5. ICE should improve screening and data collection on
arrests, detentions, and deportations that involve parents
and release such data publicly.
Here, too, ICE made significant progress in the later worksite raids: we heard that ICE was thorough in screening parents in Postville and Van Nuys, and only heard of one case
in Postville where a parent served a full five-month sentence because she was afraid to reveal that she had young
children. But there are no published, comprehensive data

on the number of parents who are arrested—the DHS
Inspector General’s report provides only a limited estimate
over a 10-year period.94 In order to determine whether
arrestees have children, ICE should provide full access to
immigration lawyers, home country consulates, social service
providers, and child welfare representatives. This may be
more difficult for isolated arrests and smaller operations
than for larger-scale worksite raids, but if ICE were to better
centralize investigative and detention operations, then such
procedures could be institutionalized. Improved screening
and data collection should be required as part of the training
and activities of state and local officers in the 287(g) program as well, with ICE officers screening for children a second time when detained immigrants are picked up from
state and local facilities.
6. Law enforcement should allow greater access to
arrested immigrants during their processing and detention, including minimizing transfer of detainees to remote
locations and supporting children’s communication and
visitation with detained parents.
For those parents who are detained, it is important to
grant access not only to third parties to screen for children,
but also to lawyers to provide for their defense and to consular officials to address other needs. In this area we noted
fewer improvements over time: access was as problematic
in Postville, the last raid we studied, as it was in the earlier
raids in Grand Island and New Bedford. Detainees need
access to these resources not only in the initial period following the raid, when consulting a lawyer is critical, but
also when detention lasts for days, weeks, or months.
Communication with children throughout a parent’s
detention is important for children’s psychological wellbeing, as we noted in some examples in this report. The
DHS report on reforming immigration detention suggested developing less punitive facilities for detainees who
do not have criminal records or otherwise are not a danger
to others.95 ICE should develop such facilities to allow
children and other family members frequent and easy
access to detained parents, in those cases where supervised
release is not possible. We also recommend, as did the
DHS report, that immigrants be detained near their fami-

94
95

Department of Homeland Security, 2009.
Schriro, 2009.

lies and communities, and that families be informed of
impending transfers.96
7. Allow parents who have a potentially valid claim the
opportunity to work while contesting their deportation,
by issuing work permits early on and expediting processing of U-visas for parents who are victims of crimes.
In our long-term sample, we found substantial food hardship and housing instability in families where parents were
released but could not work while contesting their deportation. In a large number of cases—a majority of our sample in
Postville—the legal procedures and resulting hardship lasted
for several months. In some cases in Postville, parents contesting deportation remained monitored by ankle bracelets,
could not work, and were entirely dependent on charity for
their survival for over a year. We recommend that ICE provide work permits early on for parents who have put forth
what may be a valid claim for temporary or permanent residency (for example, as a victim of crime or abuse, a cooperative witness, or an asylum claimant). The parents in this
category amounted to a fraction of all the cases in our study
sites—thus far, less than 10 percent in Grand Island and
New Bedford, and about 15 percent in Postville. DHS
should expedite processing of U-visas, as many immigrants
who are illegally employed may be the victims of crimes, as
was the case at Agriprocessors in Postville and Michael
Bianco in New Bedford.
8. ICE should work with other agencies, state and local
governments, and the nonprofit sector to develop plans for
the well-being of children when their parents are deported.
Absent changes in immigration law, only a small fraction of
parents will be able to contest their deportation. In the

96

A more recent report by the DHS Office of Inspector General
found that detainees are frequently transferred without regard to
eligibility for release and with incomplete information about their
status, legal counsel, and other factors. The report concludes that
poor information exchange among ICE offices and between ICE
and the immigration courts results in detainees getting lost in the
system and being transferred far from legal counsel and family
members. This is consistent with what we heard from the community and family respondents we interviewed. See Department
of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, 2009,
“Immigration and Customs Enforcement Policies and Procedures
Related to Detainee Transfers,” OIG 10-13, Washington, DC:
Department of Homeland Security.
77

majority of cases where deportation is a likely result, deportation should be timed such that a plan for the well-being of
children can be developed, either in the United States or in
the parents’ return country. Such a plan should provide for
education, health, and family stability. For example, in a situation where a parent is being deported and the rest of the
family is likely to return to the parent’s country of origin as
well, it may be important for children to be able to complete
the academic year in the United States. If children are receiving special medical treatment, arrangements to continue treatment should be made in their new place of residence.

Changes in Community Response Efforts and
Services to Affected Children and Families
Absent comprehensive reform or other legislation to prevent
deportation, there will continue to be large numbers of
arrests, detentions, and deportations of parents. Changes in
ICE procedures can only go so far to ameliorate family separation, economic hardship, and other consequences for children. ICE is limited in its ability to be responsive to children’s
needs by its primary law enforcement mission. The welfare of
children with arrested and deported parents is also the responsibility of community institutions—here defined broadly as
institutions in affected communities, nationally in the United
States and transnationally in communities of origin. Our
research demonstrated both the successes of and the challenges experienced by these institutions in supporting families
during and after enforcement actions, and we draw a number
of recommendations from this evidence.
9. The special role of schools and early childhood programs, amply demonstrated in the study, should be
strengthened through policies that ensure early alerts from
ICE and local law enforcement and through plans developed in advance by schools themselves to protect children
in the immediate aftermath of raids or other arrests and to
provide safe havens and comfortable learning environments.
Public schools are a universal institution, operating in every
U.S. community and which all children are entitled to
attend. Schools in our study sites provided both short- and
long-term support to children and families. School districts
in three of our sites—Grand Island, New Bedford, and
Postville—were able to obtain information about the raids
relatively quickly and developed plans to ensure that no chil78

dren were left without parents after school. We recommend
that local law enforcement agencies also inform local school
districts, early childhood programs, and social service agencies of impending raids and ongoing small-scale enforcement
activities. Schools and other community institutions for their
part should develop plans to ensure the safety of children in
the event of a raid or other form of parental arrest.
Children and families experiencing parental arrest may
need counseling and other mental health services over the
long term. Due to their universal presence, schools may be
the best place to provide children with counseling, but many
school districts may be unable to afford counseling for large
numbers of children over a long period of time. Significant
numbers of children in both New Bedford and Postville
received counseling following the raids in these communities.
Finding resources for counseling adults may be more difficult, and we only heard about significant or sustained counseling efforts for adults in Postville. Finding counselors who
understand the language and culture of affected immigrants
may be another hurdle. Additionally, immigrants are often
reluctant to attend counseling; they may respond better to
interventions by clergy or from more informal healing activities, like the sewing circles many of the women formed in
New Bedford.
10. Lawyers, community leaders, immigrant-serving
organizations, faith-based organizations, and other
trusted community actors should educate parents about
the current protocols used by immigration enforcement
agents and how best to respond in the circumstances
where parents are detained and asked whether they
have children.
In Massachusetts, local community-based organizations and
legal service agencies have conducted trainings and produced
concise, easy-to-read guides about how families, individuals,
and institutions can respond to home or workplace raids.
These guides discuss individuals’ rights if they are detained, as
well as how to notify attorneys, family members, and others
about their arrest.97 Before the Postville raid, lawyers and
community leaders across Iowa had developed a network to
97

For a comprehensive guide for families and communities on how
to prepare for immigration raids and other arrests, as well as a list of
resources developed at the state and local levels, see National
Council of La Raza, 2009, “Community Responses to Immigration
Raids: A Collection of Resources,” http://www.nclr.org/files/
54953_file_Comprehensive_Raids_Resources.pdf.

disseminate such information and develop plans to respond
to raids, but the network did not reach Postville in time for
the raid.
11. State and local child welfare agencies, along with
foundations, experts, and advocates specializing in child
welfare issues, should consider appropriate avenues to
protect and advance the interests of children whose parents are caught up in immigration enforcement.
Public child welfare agencies may in some circumstances be
able to assist families, as in the example of MDSS during the
New Bedford raid, where the agency maintained a focus on
the best interests of children, pressed ICE to release parents,
and avoided removal of children from their homes after
parental arrest. However, the role of child welfare agencies is
not always clear-cut, and there is some danger that their
involvement could lead to separation of children from parents. These risks are particularly great if agency staff do not
have expertise in reaching out to extended families, knowledge of immigration laws (or access to such knowledge), and
considerable cultural competence. Further work to identify
positive practices and roles for the child welfare system
would be helpful.
12. National, state, and local networks of deportation
defense lawyers should be established, for instance,
through chapters of the American Bar Association and
the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Legal resources were uneven across our study sites, with the
strongest networks in New Bedford and Van Nuys, where
lawyers helped the largest numbers of immigrants contest
their deportation. Lawyers across Iowa had begun setting up a
network before the Postville raid, but it was too small and too
far from Postville to be of much assistance. As a result, a single
lawyer out of Des Moines wound up handling most of the
cases. Deportation defense is a difficult task under current
U.S. immigration law, and it is seldom profitable, especially
when deportees do not have the resources to pay lawyers—as
was the case for families in our sample. Thus, we would recommend that foundations, large law firms, and other institutions develop and support networks of deportation defense
lawyers at the national, state, and local levels.
13. Both legal and humanitarian assistance should be
coordinated by and offered through trusted community
institutions such as those in faith-based and immigrantserving organizations.

Trusted community institutions should conduct outreach to
affected families and facilitate their enrollment in public assistance programs. The best example of this was in Postville,
where St. Bridget’s Church centralized services and hosted
staff from a nearby health clinic and from the Iowa DHS,
which took food stamp applications on site and significantly
lessened the level of food hardship in this community relative
to the other sites. Churches also played important roles in
relief provision, to one degree or another, in all of our other
study sites. Many nonprofit and faith-based organizations lack
the financial resources or infrastructure to sustain large-scale
or long-term relief so it is also important for these organizations to help link eligible families with public benefits to help
them overcome the material hardships that children in particular might otherwise experience.
We recommend that state and local government agencies
work as closely as possible with faith-based organizations and
community organizations in immigrant communities to
develop plans for service delivery to families affected by immigration arrests.
14. Institutions such as churches and community organizations that provide humanitarian assistance should be
prepared to continue assistance over the long term.
Detentions often last for months, and deportation proceedings, including subsequent appeals, can last for years, but the
relief efforts we studied were mostly concentrated in the first
days and weeks following worksite raids. The exceptions
were in Postville, where religious groups managed to raise
enough money to continue supporting families for more
than a year, and in New Bedford, where local organizations
such as Catholic Charities kept up intensive efforts to support families for many months. Housing is generally a family’s most expensive basic need, and families often wind up
crowding together to reduce costs. Over the long term,
responding institutions should concentrate on housing as
well as other forms of support.
15. Nongovernmental institutions such as churches,
CBOs, foundations, and advocacy organizations, alongside state and federal governments, should consider strategies for coordinating health and education services for
citizen children who cross back and forth between nations
as a result of parental deportation.
Even though many of the parents in our study contested
their deportation, the majority of them have been or may
79

eventually be deported. Parents faced heart-wrenching decisions about whether to take their children with them or leave
them in the United States with another parent or relative.
There has been little documentation of conditions that await
children after deportation, but in general the receiving communities in Mexico, Central America, and elsewhere are
poor, with limited infrastructure in health, education, and
other basic necessities for children. Even when schools and
other services are relatively strong, they are not well
coordinated with U.S. school and health systems, and children who move back and forth may lose ground and fall into
gaps. The numbers of U.S. deportees—hundreds of thousands every year—are now sufficient to warrant partnerships
between U.S. and receiving community service providers
(such as schools) and potentially, investments in receiving
communities as well. Without such linkages and investments, the children of deportees will continue to experience
hardship and limited opportunities for their future.

Conclusion
In conclusion, our report finds substantial economic hardship and emotional difficulties for children with parents
arrested in immigration raids. Worksite raids have received
the most attention—both from the press and in terms of
community responses—but other forms of arrest such as
those by FOTs and the state and local police have similar
impacts on children—long-term family separation, economic

80

hardship, and changes in children’s behavior. As the U.S.
government shifts its attention from controversial large-scale
workplace raids to other forms of enforcement, protections
for children during parental arrest, detention, and deportation are critical. Comprehensive immigration reform could
consider the presence of U.S. citizen children as a central criterion for legalization. Absent comprehensive reform, the
most important protection for children would be allowing
immigration judges to consider the harm that children would
face if deported or separated from deported parents, but this
would require legislation reforming the process for contesting
deportation. It is likely that comprehensive reform or other
immigration legislation would take some time to pass
and possibly might not pass at all. In the meantime, ICE
should continue to reform its enforcement and detention
operations—keeping the best interests of children in mind.
And national, state, and local institutions involved in protecting
children and integrating immigrants should continue to plan
strategies to respond to immigration operations—both large
and small. The substantial resources that community institutions have expended on supporting affected families in the
aftermath of ICE operations—alongside the large sums ICE
has spent on the operations themselves—show how costly
our current broken immigration system has become in financial terms. However, the underlying price that is paid by
children poses a much longer-term burden that will continue
to extend into the future unless it is faced squarely and practically by the United States.

Facing Our Future
Children in the Aftermath of
Immigration Enforcement
Facing Our Future
Children in the Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement

2100 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
ph 202.833.7200
fax 202.467.5775
http://www.urban.org

Ajay Chaudry
Randy Capps
Juan Manuel Pedroza
Rosa Maria Castañeda
Robert Santos
Molly M. Scott

 

 

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