What are past and current laws and policies that continue to negatively impact Hispanic children and families that have mixed immigration status?

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bohemianteacher4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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The United States Immigration System’s set of laws is complicated and has specific procedures and guidelines that accompany it.  Immigration laws are federal laws, but some states have their own immigration laws.

Under the current immigration laws for families with mixed citizenship, in which the children are citizens but the mother or both parents are not citizens, the primary focus is on deportation. Unfortunately, for the families this can mean that the child may remain in the states but the parent who is not here legally is going to be deported.

To gain an understanding of the way immigration laws were structured, one needs to learn a little about the history of Latino immigration in America. After the Mexican-American war, Mexico released land to the United States.  As part of the agreement at the time, the people of Hispanic origin who were already on the land that became American property were allowed to remain.  The decree came under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (Gutiérrez, 2013).

The West began to expand, and development was undertaken by using Chinese and Japanese labor.  However, because of the strict immigration laws imposed on Asians, the number of Asian workers went down and developers looked toward Mexico to obtain laborers. The economic development of Northern Mexico and the Southern United States led to the connection of railroad systems moving in and out of the United States into Mexico and back.

The Mexican Revolution caused many Mexicans to flee to America.  Once this trend started, it continued so that Mexicans could secure work and obtain better economic solvency. After World War II, America recruited more Mexicans into the country because of the need for agricultural workers. Protection of the workers and an agreement between the United States and Mexico ensured Mexican workers were provided with transportation to and from Mexico, housing, food, and salary for their work.  The Act that supported these requirements was called the Emergency Farm and Labor agreement, which passed in 1942.  

The Bracero Program, or migrant labor workers program, increased the number of Mexican laborers in America.  The program led to the increased immigration of Mexican people and also began to include workers from Honduras. As Mexicans became more familiar with the economic and employment system in the United States immigration increased even more. Farming companies and businesses were more than happy to exploit the unregistered worker because they could offer lower wages, no benefits, and no conditions.  Over the next 25 years, the population of Mexicans and other Latinos expanded significantly.  Cuban immigration into the United States was spurred on under the rule of Fidel Castro, further increasing the Latino population.

By the mid 1960s, the United States had ended the Bracero Program.  Instead of workers identified and authorized to work in the States, companies and farms were hiring unauthorized workers to fill the gaps.  Border concerns arose, and Americans became concerned by the many Latinos living in America.  The INS began to grab and send Mexicans back to Mexico under Operation Wetback. Mothers and fathers were separated from family members without recourse.  If a plant was raided, or a farm and the parent or parents were taken and the children were not with them, the children were sent to relatives or placed in foster care.

The Immigration and Nationality Act was passed, limiting the quota of Mexicans that could legally enter the United States each year.  In the interim, women began having children and the children born on American soil became citizens.  However, citizenship was not awarded to the mother, and she risked deportation.

Latinos coming from other countries brought higher education and economic improvement but for the Mexican population only a small percent had a bachelor’s degree.  Most of the immigrants were expected to perform labor.  The largest groups to engage in rapid growth in the United States were from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.

The Mexican drug trade concerned citizens and the financial drain caused by illegal aliens coupled with resentment from constituents led to an outcry over border crossings from Mexico.  The border patrol ramped up their efforts to keep Mexicans out of America.  It is important to note that the majority of Mexicans living in the United States entered the country legally but remained when their visas expired. 

In an effort to make conditions uncomfortable for Mexicans without visas or consent to be in America, laws passed that were state laws forbidding the hiring of any Mexican without a permit, implementing fines for people hiring them, making it illegal to rent to them, and requiring reporting of anyone who is not a citizen by social workers, health care workers, and other employees. 

Coleman, 2007, reveals that some Mexicans had been allowed to be grandfathered into citizenship, under new government laws in the 1990s, if they had lived and worked in America for more than 10 years.  For some women and families this meant that one member may be grandfathered in but the other, who had not lived in America long enough, remained at risk of deportation.

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Mexican Border became restricted under the American Patriot Act.  Increased attention was focused on immigrants without citizenship. The U.S. Southwest Strategic Doctrine of Border Control was created and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 was amended.  The result was the criminalization of undocumented migrants. 

The United States has continued to take a hard stance, making it difficult for families with mixed citizenship status.  Some states have argued to take away medical care through Medicaid and have passed laws making illegal immigrants' children unable to attend college under Federal and State grants. 

Under President Obama’s administration, over 500,000 Mexicans have been shielded through the Deportation Act, which allows them to remain in America if they can provide proof that they are eligible for deportation protection.

The controversy that surrounds the Latino population, with specific hardships for Mexicans living in the United States, continues to progress and regress as politicians base their campaign promises on their stances on illegal immigration.  In the meantime, mothers and fathers must still worry about the separation that can come if they are identified as illegal and deported.

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