On Thursday, Univision anchor Maria Elena Salinas cited a Colorlines.com investigation that found there is an estimated 5,100 children in foster care who face barriers to family reunification because their mother or father is in detention or has been deported.
Salinas mentioned Colorlines' investigation before asking President Obama whether he would consider deferred action for non-citizen parents of U.S. born children.
Transcript of Salinas' question is below:
"Mr. President, you have been the President who has made the largest number of deportations in history -- more than 1.5 million so far. You've separated many families. There are more than 5,000 children who are American citizens in foster care and in the adoption process. Would you just -- since you've granted deferred action, would you like to do something -- consider doing something similar to other groups of non-criminal illegal immigrants such as the parents of U.S.-born children?"
The president responded with his well worn talking points on deportation. He said that the Department of Homeland Security is now targeting deportation programs on "people with criminal records" and people "apprehended close to the border." He said this later group, border crossers, are "not people who have longstanding roots in our community."
"His assertion that by focusing on these demographics he'll avoid separating families is plainly not reflected in reality," said Seth Freed Wessler, Colorlines' investigative reporter.
"In fact, many children are stuck in foster care because their parents have been detained as a result of a conviction of some sort. Felipe Montes, for example, was deported in late 2010 because he was convicted of driving violations. Other parents I met inside detention centers around the county were facing deportation as a result of charges for things like petty theft or minor drug charges. The president's focus on "criminals" will not solve the problem of family separation or keep children of deportees out of foster care," Wessler said.
Wessler says the President's assertion that people picked up at the border don't have ties to the U.S. is similarly wrong.
The NY Times reported late last year, that '56 percent of apprehensions at the Mexican border in 2010 involved people who had been caught previously, up from 44 percent in 2005.'"
In other words, the majority of migrants picked up at the border are mostly people who've been here before, and many are coming back to reunite with their families.
"This should come as no surprise," Wessler said, citing a recent study from Pew that found that "nearly half of undocumented immigrants in the US have minor children."
"The President said these are 'heartbreaking stories' that emerge 'occasionally.' But the truth is that when, as federal data shows, over 22 percent of deportees are the parents of U.S. citizens, these stories will be far from occasional outliers." Wessler said.