Separated Families: Barriers to Family Reunification After Deportation

by Deborah A. Boehm

Executive Summary

This paper outlines the complexities — and unlikelihood — of keeping
families together when facing, or in the aftermath of deportation. After
discussing the context that limits or prevents reunification among
immigrant families more generally, I outline several of the particular
ways that families are divided when a member is deported. Drawing on
case studies from longitudinal ethnographic research in Mexico and the
United States, I describe: 1) the difficulties in successfully canceling
deportation orders, 2) the particular limitations to family reunification for
US citizen children when a parent is deported, and 3) the legal barriers
to authorized return to the United States after deportation. I argue that
without comprehensive immigration reform and concrete possibilities for
relief, mixed-status and transnational families will continue to be divided.
Existing laws do not adequately address family life and the diverse needs
of individuals as members of families, creating a humanitarian crisis both
within and beyond the borders of the United States. The paper concludes
with recommendations for immigration policy reform and suggestions for
restructuring administrative processes that directly impact those who have
been deported and their family members.


ISSN 2330-2488 (Online), 2331-5024 (Print)  © 2017 by the Center for Migration Studies of New York

Journal on Migration and Human Security: a publication of The Center for Migration Studies of New York
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