Roughly half a million undocumented immigrants live in California’s 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 residents are lawful permanent residents (greencard holders), some of whom remain at risk for deportation. There are thousands of unaccompanied immigrant youth enrolled in Bay Area schools, along with newcomer students separated from their parents at the border.
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. Parents and children continue fleeing violence in Central America, with many looking to relocate with family already living in the Bay. But they face new hurdles in obtaining asylum and thousands of parents have been separated from their children at the border.
1 in 8 students in California schools has at least one undocumented parent
The impact of these changes is felt throughout California schools, where one in eight students has at least one undocumented parent – tens of thousands in the Bay Area alone. Many immigrant parents – terrified of being separated from their children – have kept them home. 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. This is particularly true for newly arriving families seeking asylum who are either separated at the border or placed in family detention.
Detained immigrants sometimes have the opportunity to be released on bond while fighting their case. This not only allows them to reunite with and 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.