Roughly half a million undocumented immigrants live in the Bay Area, one of the highest concentrations in the nation. Tens of thousands of Bay Area residents were granted work permits and a reprieve from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – which the Trump Administration has decided to phase out. Many more Oakland residents are lawful permanent residents (greencard holders), some of whom remain at risk for deportation.
Immigrant communities across the country are experiencing a surge in detention and deportation of both children and adults, including in the Bay Area. Nation-wide, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested 40% more people during the first nine months of 2017 than the same period in 2016.
Immigration arrests are up by more than 40%
The anxiety is palpable inside the halls and classrooms of the 123 schools of the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). Oakland has the largest Latino student body of any school district in the Bay Area in absolute numbers, as well as a sizeable population of students who have immigrated from Asia, Middle East, and Africa. More than half of all OUSD students speak a language other than English at home. While OUSD does not collect official statistics on the immigration status of its students or their families, a significant share are either undocumented themselves, or have parents who are undocumented. Many of these parents have been in the U.S. for a decade or more, and for many undocumented students Oakland is the only home they can remember. More recently, Oakland has become home to young people fleeing violence in Central America.
Many immigrant parents – terrified of being separated from their children – have kept them out of school. Unfounded rumors of raids exacerbate these fears. Fraudulent immigration consultants, known as “Notarios,” prey on families’ fear and rob them of both their hard-earned savings and often of any possibility of improving their immigration status in the future. It is increasingly important to provide families with reliable information about changes in immigration policy and enforcement activity, and to connect them with qualified legal representation to assess their immigration options.
The increase in immigration arrests under the new administration is creating additional strains on families. Once a family member is detained by ICE, removal proceedings can take several months or even years to complete. Prolonged periods of detention can push families into poverty and create tremendous emotional strain for both parents and children.
Detained immigrants sometimes have the opportunity to be released on bond while fighting their case. This not only allows them to continue to care for their family, but also significantly improves the odds of ultimately succeeding in winning relief from deportation. Of those released on bond 68% were ultimately allowed to stay in the US in 2015. Among those who remained in detention, one third or less received deportation relief, even if they had legal representation.
Unfortunately, immigration bonds are often set at levels far beyond the reach of most families. In 2015, the average bond was set at $6,500, and at least a quarter of the time it was more than $10,000. In addition, only a US citizen (USC) or lawful permanent resident (LPR) can be the “obligor” on an immigration bond. That means that even when families have the financial resources to cover bond, they are often unable to post because of the lack of a trusted USC or LPR to do so on their behalf.