Undocumented parents sweat out debate on immigration reform
These little girls are U.S.-born American citizens, but their father lacks proper immigration documentation.
June 14th, 2011
11:07 AM ET

Undocumented parents sweat out debate on immigration reform

Tough new state immigration laws are striking fear in the hearts of illegal immigrants with American-born children.

“I worry about my children,” says one father of two young kids in Carrollton, Georgia. He didn't want to give his name, because he has no legal right to reside in the United States. “My kids were born here. What will happen with them? We don’t know, and that’s the fear we have.”

Georgia, like AlabamaArizona and Utah, recently passed a tough immigration law.

The longer Congress waits to deal with immigration reform, the louder states seem to scream for action. According to the National Conference of Legislatures, an all-time high of 1,538 bills dealing with immigrants and refugees have been introduced in state legislatures this year alone. These measures include things like employment verification requirements for businesses and restrictions on public health services and college access for illegal immigrants. But the most worrisome for many parents are those giving local law enforcement more power to do federal immigration checks.

“Don’t worry!" is a message Atlanta immigration lawyer Charles Kuck gives his clients all day long. He’s one of those challenging the Georgia law’s constitutionality in federal court.

“These laws are bad, and they’re going to have a tremendous effect on the community. But for now we say, ‘Calm down.’ This law is meant to silence people, and we have to at this time not be silenced. We have to be vocal and not shut up.”

But for parents who fear separation from their American children, it’s easier said than done. About 2.5 million families in the U.S. have undocumented immigrant parents and American-born children, according to the Pew Hispanic Center's Jeff Passel.

“I’m planning to move to Miami, where I have some family,” says one undocumented mother of three who lives in Georgia. “But they tell me that the law is also being considered there.”

State lawmakers acknowledge many of these bills are meant to send a message to Washington.

“This problem is never going to be solved completely until the federal government deals with it,” says Georgia Republican State Rep. Matt Ramsey, author of the Georgia immigration bill.

So far, Washington has shown little reaction to states' enacting immigration bills. “The drive for comprehensive immigration reform has shown unsuccessful,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, told the Atlanta Press Club on May 20.

Two weeks earlier, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the club only that that she didn’t like a patchwork of states taking on immigration reform.

As federal immigration reform languishes, undocumented immigrant parents of American children gain time. If they can avoid deportation until their firstborn turns 21, that child can apply for his or her parent’s legal status.

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Filed under: Alabama • Arizona • Georgia • Immigration • Politics • Utah
soundoff (1,262 Responses)
  1. BAZ987

    People say the DREAM ACT should be passed because the children shoudn't have to pay for their parents transgressioons. Well the parents should not have their transgressions forgiven because they had a child born in the U.S. This is why poeple call them anchor babies. Illegals expect to be allowed to stay in the U.S. because they had a child born here. Many didn't pay state or federal income taxes. Many can't or won't learn English. Many have gotten false social security numbers. Many drive without a license. On and on and on. We are sending a terriblr message. It's OK to break our laws bcause if you have a child born here we won't enforce the laws you have broken. This is AMNESTY.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. scorpio

    what non sense!! why media is so smpathetic with these criminals?
    they sud take their kids and go back..or deport them all. when the US citizen kid grow up, he/she can come back..they r US citizens. what is so unusual and difficult in this?

    every state should have these immigration laws, if obama cannot enact fed laws!!

    June 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sandy

    Send them ALL home. They come here purposely to have their kids here to get citizenship.
    If the parents aren't citizens then the children shouldn't be either. We as Americans are fed
    up with the illegals getting all the breaks. The U.S. needs to stop giving out all these Work Visas
    to foreigners. Give the jobs to Americans who built this country. Not to those who want to trash
    it and make their own laws. Our ancestors came to this country legally, why cant "they". Loosers, send
    them all back because we dont want you here, PERIOD!

    June 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dontbow

    There is no reason they need to seperate from their children, They all need to go back to Mexico and come accross legally. ENOUGH said on the subject. Quit playing the humanity BS!

    June 14, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Eric

    If parents aren't legal citizens, the children born here shouldn't either. I wish we could just send them back, but I doubt that would ever happen. And I'm not racist. I'm Mexican myself, but my parents came into this country the right way. It's just think it's unfair for American citizens.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Henry Miller

    "Tough new state immigration laws are striking fear in the hearts of illegal immigrants..."

    Then why don't they just go back to wherever they came from?

    June 14, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Annexian

    Let's end the "Left/Right" garbage. Both sides have been reduced to comical jokes of themselves by the media, so they cancel each other out.

    Illegal immigration is NOT (at root) a racial or a human rights thing.

    The richest of the rich aren't satisfied our labors have earned them 15 mansions and 25 yachts and a private island or two (or the $ to buy that) and they want MORE. So they import illegals and export jobs. It is NOT "Business". It's like punching a hole in a dam to power a paddle wheel generator, costing the real generator 9 parts of energy for every one part stolen and threatening to collapse the structure. It is not business, it is fraud, perhaps treason.

    The man who hires an illegal is a thief and a traitor.
    He steals the American dream from the American who's wages he diminishes and from the illegal he makes into a hated second class citizen. He does more damage to this country than any foreign soldier or terrorist because he destroys faith in it inside and out and he does it not out of some opposing ideal, save the worst aspect of Capitalism, taking profit over every social contract and only fearing the gaze of the law not the morality of it.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Marisol Vega

    I am so sick of them showing Hispanic faces as if they are the only illegal race. Why not show an Asian face or an African face. There are illegal immigrants from all countries and the media chooses to only focus on one race...

    June 14, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neal Kelley

      You are right.. there are other races that are here illegally.. but hispanics make up the largest number.. we are not next door to Africa or Asia.. we are next door to mexico!

      June 14, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Commentmaker

      Hispanic is not a "race." Hispanic is a term for several "ethnic" categories. If they show a white face, it might be Hispanic. If they show a black face, it might be Hispanic. If they show a brown face, or a yellow face, both might be Hispanic. Maybe start with learning about who you are before defending where you should live. Regardless, America can't afford to keep paying the way for illegal immigration-and I say that as a black Hispanic.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Rioux

      "Hispanic" is not a race.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    What will happen to the kids of illegal immigrants? Nothing - they get to keep living with their parents if they want, just back in their home country.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. The ICE Agent that deported Papa

    It is said that NAFTA is the main reason that Illegal’s infiltrate the US. If NAFTA is bad for Mexico and her people, it is Mexico’s duty to withdraw from the treaty. Mexicans need to take to the street and be the change they want to see in the world just like the brave people of Egypt, Syria and Libya are doing right now. The fact that Mexico supports a treaty that hurts does not obligate the United States to except its cast always. The US is not Mexico’s welfare system. Canada recognized the fact that Illegal Aliens contribute nothing but crime and deported them without amnesty. It is time the US does the same.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. exodus

    This is very simple. You can think however you like about this subject but it boils down to simple math. You cannot have a welfare state and allow immigrants running rampant into your country. Unemployment is high, people are broke, the states are broke, the Fed is broke and trying to raise the debt ceiling to we can owe even MORE to China and so on. So who is going to pay for all this welfare? You cant take the money from working Americans anymore because there isnt enough of them. The 14th amendment says all these kids are Americans and the vast majority are minorities so they get additional welfare and get it first. It's why health insurance is failing, why social security is failing and others of this model are failing. You cant have more money going out then coming in; thats a simple economical and mathematical principle.

    So I ask all those who are not in favor of deportation or stricter immigration laws: How do you sustain this? What's your plan? The people you vote for, what's their plan? If you have a family member and a total stranger who needed $5 to survive and you only had $5 who do you give it to? Youre on a large boat with a rip in the hull and it's sinking so you can either seal that portion and kill some people or let the boat sink and kill everyone. What do you do?

    Have all the "what's right" rhetoric you want because it doesnt matter. You can be as humanitarian as you want and it doesnt matter. It would be great if we could all live under rainbows where life was perfect but thats not real so it doesnt matter. The system as it is cannot be sustained. What do you do?

    The truth is when everyone is given everything in reality everyone has nothing!

    June 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really

      You think you are tired of illegal immagrants how do you think the american indians feel??? so what is your answer???

      June 14, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • marye725

      Couldn't have said it better.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Exodus – don't ya know, their solution is simple: tax the "evil" corporations to death, tax those who make more money even more, tax, tax, tax.

      Liberals see the world through the mind of a 10 year old "mommy, why does there have to be poor people? why can't we just take money from the rich & give it to the poor so that everyone can have money?"

      They think only with their emotions, not logic nor facts. They cry "racism" and "heartless" if you don't cow-tow to their idealogical, unsustainable, pie-in-the-sky dreams.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • marye725

      What about American Indians? That was war and power – Also, American Indians pay no tax – I'm not sure where your going with that?

      June 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Exodus, of course you are right. It's the classic producer/consumer problem. When there are too many consumers and not enough producers, you get famine. It's a basic concept. However, politics are self-serving. Logic is usually ignored when it doesn't align with one's self-interest. Take pride in the fact that you "get it", but don't expect many here to agree with you.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • nick

      Really: REALLY? Moron.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Nicole

    Wow. So much bitterness and ignorance here.

    I agree immigrants should come here legally so we can all stop arguing over this and increase our resources. But I'd love to see what YOU would do if you lived in a country where you made $2 an hour and lived in deplorable conditions and could walk over a border to a better life for your children. You are lying to yourself if you think you are so holier than thou you wouldn't do it. It is astounding anyone would ask what kind of message illegal immigrant parents are sending to their children. I'm sure they'd prefer to be an illegal immigrant finding reasonable work than to let their kids starve. Do you think they left their McMansions in Mexico to come here?

    Also, the majority of work illegal immigrants perform is farm and labor work. Stephen Colbert tried to get unemployed Americans to take over illegal immigrant farm work, to no avail. NO ONE wanted to do it. Do you think if we didn't have cheap labor that our economy would improve all of a sudden? And if you think illegal immigrants are coming in and taking cushy office jobs and yanking your 401k's from your pockets, you have never been outside of your own county lines.

    You're also kidding yourself it you think "the liberals" are the real problem. Who do you think is hiring illegal immigrants to do cheap work? The majority of farmers vote Republican. Illegal immigrants would stop coming here if no one would hire them.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      The principles upon which our country is based were founded after a revolution. People standing up and trying to make it a better place. Maybe people in all these countries that produce illegal immigrants should start by trying to induce change in their own country before they come to the US looking for a handout.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • nick

      Nicole: You're emotions prevent you from thinking critically. The reasons for the influx of illegal immigrants are sad but they are not what's under fire. Nobody said that the standard of living in Mexico was good. Don't be so trite.

      Also, that you hold a comedian's (Stephen Colbert) account of the situation as fact and proof of any kind is frightening.

      Read the post directly above yours... Knowledge is power.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • SAMBO

      Why doesn't their own country take care of them. They come here illegally and then start marching waving their home country flag. If they're so nationalistic ......stay in your own country. don't come here illegally use the resources set up for the legal citazens and then wave your flag in our our face when you get caught and are asked to leave. Oh and by the way take La Raza with you on your way out. They're stinking up the place

      June 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Janey

    I bet almost all the people saying "deport them" and agreeing with these laws are white folks.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Flatsguide

      No, the taxpayers are agreeing with these new laws, racist.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Janey

      funny you call me a racist when you are clearly the one hating on the illegals. I am a tax payer too and I completely disagree with these laws.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Janey is racist

      June 14, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Janey is the only one to bring up race, therefore she's racist.

      If you "disagree" with these laws, then what do you agree with? Should we allow bank robbers to go free because some of them have kids? what about murderers? Why do think it's OK to pick & choose which laws to follow, like it's a buffet? If everyone disrespected & disgregarded the law, anarchy would ensue. We have laws for a reason, and if you choose to break those laws, there are (supposed to be) consequences.

      I doubt your tiny brain can comprehend that, all you do is think with your emotions.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Becci Springer

      Heres a clue for you, All the legal (that means they didn't sneak across our borders) immigrants that I work with dislike them as much as the people that born in this country. The reason being they think of them as criminals.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blanco

      I say deport the illegal canadians too.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      There is nothing racist about disliking illegal immigrants. Do I dislike illegal immigrants because of their race? No. Do I dislike them as human beings? No. What I dislike is when they come to our country, take American jobs, suck away our money, have babies that are granted American citizenship, yet contribute little to our society. I'm sure as individuals, most of them are decent people, just like all of us. But illegal is illegal. Speeding...murder...sneaking across the border. I'd dislike illegal immigrants from Mexico as much as I'd dislike them from Canada or Russia or France.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • SAMBO


      June 14, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. pointless1

    We can't take care of our own huddled masses....

    June 14, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kenny

    Its sad that these people will have to make a decision of leaving their children with a relative, or taking them with. Honestly if you didn't come here illegally you wouldn't have to decide. Everybody has a heart but the law is the law. i know i lost an extra 40 bucks last week to taxes going up, we have a serious problem in this country it starts with securing the border and getting rid of the illegals, and it ends with social program reforms that will prevent generations of the bottom dwellers of this country using welfare, foodstamps and HUD housing as a way of life rather than a means to an end. These programs were intended for people who fell on hard times. Today's there's hundreds of people that decided to have a child they could not afford because they know that they will have free housing, free food and free medical for life all on the backs of the middle class

    June 14, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
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