There is little doubt that the U.S. immigration system is broken. A lack of comprehensive legislative reform at the federal level has resulted in the use of enforcement-only policies. Such policies have not only been ineffective in enhancing national security and curbing unauthorized immigration, but have also been costly and had severe consequences for unauthorized workers and their families. Particularly harmed by current enforcement operations (e.g., worksite and home enforcement raids) are the approximately 5.5 million children with at least one unauthorized parent, about three-fourths of which are U.S. citizens (Passel & Cohn, 2009). These children are at risk in part because they live with the fear that their parents can be arrested at any time, separated from them, and eventually deported.
Their fears are not unfounded. On any given day, the federal government holds more than 32,000 detainees, with an average of 380,000 detainees held each year (Schriro, 2009). Most detention centers are located in remote areas, and detainees may be placed in or transferred to a center that is far away from their homes. Meaningful contact with family members is difficult if not impossible.