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What Happens To U.S. Citizen Children Forced To Relocate With Deported Immigrant Parents?

– Posted in: Cancellation Of Removal
Immigrant Children Reading Books

It makes many sick to their stomach and want to gag.

It can take years, if ever, for the agony to subside.  The hurt gets into your soul, lingering in the backdrop to your daily activities, and there’s no running away from the incessant mental anguish.

Deportation is unforgiving.

For spouses of immigrants, the moment a husband or wife is ordered to be deported is similar to the fateful juncture when a loved one is declared deceased.

They must instantly begin to address and undergo emotionally painful adjustments in their lives they were hoping to never experience.

Deportation – like death – rearranges lives permanently.

Family Relocation After Deportation Is A Choice, Or Is It?

Deportation forces spouses of immigrants to choose – after losing their cancellation of removal hearing – to choose between two horrible options.


“Should I Stay?”

Deportation Impact Of Family Separation


“Should I Go?”

Deportation Impact Of Family Relocation

And if the couple has children, there’s a second equally distasteful choice that must be made.

“If I go with my husband, should I take our U.S. citizen children?”

In my experience as a San Bernardino immigration lawyer, I’ve seen more mixed-status immigrant families opt for the permanent separation scenario.

They worry that life for their United States-born children will be better here than in another country and they do not want their children to lose such advantages.

Yet, many spouses of deported immigrants take the opposite approach – choosing to stay together as a family unit, even though it means they must move to a country foreign to the U.S. citizen children and spouse.

The Educational Struggles Of U.S. Citizen Children Living Abroad

Unfortunately, few studies have focused on what happens to the U.S. family members after relocation.

This causes problems of proof in deportation defense cases revolving around cancellation of removal cases at immigration court.

In case after case that rely on a showing of a stringent level of hardship imposed on the qualifying relatives of an immigrant facing removal from the U.S., the absence of objective evidence undermines many otherwise strong claims for relief.

As a result, I was instantly interested in a Columbus Dispatch news article that shared the findings of a recent study shedding light on the impact of U.S. children who move to the home country of their deported parent.

Because the study can help support claims of exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to your qualifying family members at immigration court, I put together an Immigration LIVE video to explain its key points.

This subject matter was the basis of a recent ten-month by Ohio State Professor Sarah Gallo, who lived in a small town in Mexico and followed the progress of various children, born in the U.S., attending elementary school abroad.

Deportees’ US-born kids struggle in Mexican Schools

Professor Gallo Studies Impact Of Relocation On Immigrant Children


Professor Gallo made three significant findings:

First, the majority of the U.S. born children struggled academically in school. Even though some could speak Spanish, few could read or write Spanish. Since there are no classes  similar to the ESL classes in the United States, there was no tutoring available.

Second, the students were not active in school. Many of them were subjected to ridicule, teasing, and being left out of classroom activities. The more that the United States citizen children exhibited American behavior, the more likely they were to undergo such isolation.

Third, as a combination of the first two factors, many of the children that she followed had to repeat grades.

The Impact Of Relocation On U.S. Children After Deportation Of Immigrant Parents

Video Transcript

Today, I want to discuss some recent immigration research conducted by an Ohio State University professor.

The ten-month research project carried out by Professor Sarah Gallo focused on the plight of U.S. citizen children who had relocated to Mexico when their parent was deported.

The reason that this is important for those of you that are presenting a hardship defense at immigration court – in a cancellation of removal case  – one of the first issues you have to address is the issue of relocation versus separation. (By the way, this is also an issue that arises for immigrants trying to win a family unity waiver.)

Will the U.S. citizen spouse and children go with the immigrant if the immigrant is deported to a foreign country? Or, will they remain here separated?

If the relocation is going to be the issue because that’s what you plan to do, then this study is very critical.

It had three key findings that you can use in your case.

One, it talked about that in this town, there was no equivalent of what we have here in the United States, English As A Second Language. So the children who went there, although they could speak relatively good Spanish, they could not read or write Spanish. As a result, this affected their performance in school.

That’s an important issue for all of you to bring up in your case.

A second issue was limited class participation. This was more tempered by the issue of socialization. A lot of the American students in this research project that were followed by the Ohio State professor were teased, ridiculed, isolated by their Mexican peers. And the more Americanized they were, the more the teasing and the isolation was heightened.

This is not surprising because it’s similar to what immigrants who come to the United States face from their American peers. They, too, face the same kind of isolation and teasing and being left out of the inner circles of students in their schools.

The third issue was that of a lot of these students had to repeat grades and again that’s not surprising if the students are struggling educationally, if they left out socially, then of course they are going to struggle educationally.

We certainly see that here in the United States with immigrants that are going to American schools for the first time. They have the same kind of problems.

The study had some limits.  For an instance, it was based on children who had only been living in Mexico two to three years. And it was based on a small town in Mexico.

I tend to think that the findings, however, are pretty general and would occur regardless of whether it was a bigger city or smaller city. And once the child is behind in school, even at an early age, it is going to be hard for them to get over it quickly. It takes several years for children to become acclimated to being in a foreign environment.

And again, I would point to the American experience on that.

Here is the key take-away. If you’re an immigrant, this is an issue that you want to explore before you present your hardship case in a deportation defense matter.

The various points raised by this study should be discussed in front of a judge, and ensure that the judge seriously considers each and every one fully.

By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics


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