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Jump in U.S. Deportations Leaves Moms Stranded

Womens eNews - Tue, 15 Nov 2011 18:49 GMT
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Parental Rights Threatened "It's really hard to tell since those numbers are not available, but when we are talking about families in the report we are looking oftentimes at women being disproportionally affected by threats to their parental rights and to the prospects of their families being permanently shattered," said Seth Wessler, senior researcher for the center's Nov. 2 report, "Shattered Families." That report found at least 5,100 children whose parents have been either detained or deported are currently living under foster care. In the next five years, at least 15,000 more children will be at risk for entering the foster system under a similar set of circumstances, the report says. Michelle Brane, director of the detention and asylum program at the Washington-based Women's Refugee Commission, said in a recent phone interview that there is about a 50-50 split between women and men in terms of immigrants who are living in the United States. However, she estimates about 90 percent of the undocumented people the United States detains each year are men. Children will be covered by federal programs, said Brane, but incidents of shelters and child protective services reporting undocumented parents to immigration officials have been recorded. Amy Gottlieb is program director of the American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program, based in Newark, N.J. She hasn't noticed any particular gender aspect to those who are detained or deported in her work with immigrant families. Suddenly single fathers struggle just as much as newly single mothers when one partner is detained or deported and two paychecks are reduced to one, or one paycheck the family was once dependent on dissolves, she added. 'It Gets Worse and Worse' One single mother from the Ivory Coast said that in her Newark community she mostly sees other undocumented mothers struggling to support their families, following their partners' deportation. "It's all the same for them," said the 44-year-old woman in an interview held in American Friends Service Committee's Newark office. She asked to be identified as Jeanne Twam. "You are always hoping for the best, that one day it will get better and better, but it gets worse and worse." Twam has been supporting her school-aged children, mother and husband since 2008, when her husband was deported, following his denial of political asylum. Immigration agents came for him at their home early in the morning, she said, when her children were sleeping and she was at nursing school. Her worries about the family's tight finances and her lack of documentation discouraged Twam from pursuing a legal case on behalf of her husband. He now lives in their native West African country and still relies heavily on her financial support. But Twam lost her job as a nurse's aid this past spring and says keeping up with her responsibilities is becoming increasingly difficult. "Right now I lost my job and when you don't have the right papers there is no help," said Twam. "You go to the government and the social workers and they won't tell you straight forward, but you can feel that because of these lack of papers this help is not coming." Options for homeless families with undocumented members are becoming more limited, said Linda Flores-Tober, executive director of the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless in Elizabeth, N.J., which provides about 2,5000 people annually with emergency shelter and rental assistance, in addition to educational and recreational support for homeless young people. More than two-thirds of the immigrant families it supports with housing aid are led by single women, said Flores-Tober. Their partners or husbands are often detained in the nearby Elizabeth Detention Center, or Essex County Correctional Facility, which is proposing an expansion in part to house more detainees. Inmates' relatives -- most of them women -- in early September staged a demonstration outside the Essex jail, calling the area environmentally unfit. Fumes from a nearby water processing plant, the relatives said, made living conditions unsanitary and potentially unsafe.

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