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Home Immigrants Our Children: Orange County’s Immigrant Youth Live Under the Fear of Deportation

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Our Children: Orange County’s Immigrant Youth Live Under the Fear of Deportation

Karina Onofre Banner

Immigration policy, like trade and foreign affairs, was deliberately assigned by our founding fathers to the federal government. The failure of Congress and the Obama Administration to deal with the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, however, has put enormous pressure on local governments to fill the policy gap. In Orange County, that pressure has led to a policy whereby the local probation department refers children in its care to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. While pressure should be put on the Feds to tackle the immigration issue, the policy, in effect, has generated considerable concern in our Latino neighborhoods and within the legal community.

The UC Irvine School of Law recently issued a critical report on the county’s ICE referral policy. Based on its findings, the Orange County Board of Supervisors should place all referrals of minors to ICE on hold while policy-makers review the matter and consider changes.


Orange County leads the state in referring children to ICE. In fact, Orange County is responsible for 43% of all ICE detention requests in California. The disproportionate size of this figure justifies placing the policy on hold while, at a minimum, an explanation can be formed. While it is true that the youths in question violated the law and were placed under probation, ICE detention significantly and arbitrarily increases the severity of their punishment without reference to the severity of their misconduct. The UCI study summarizes the harm as follows:

The harms of juvenile immigration referrals are many and varied. Immigration referrals tear children away from families to be detained in remote facilities for indefinite periods. In the past several years, hundreds of Orange County’s youth have been separated from their families and communities. Without access to their families and sometimes without legal counsel, children in immigration detention face potential permanent removal from their families and communities. Because our immigration system lacks robust protections for children, deportation may occur even when the child is eligible for or has legal status. Immigration referrals also subvert the purposes of the juvenile justice system, most notably through abandonment of California’s commitment to rehabilitation, confidentiality of juvenile records, and family unity. In addition, referrals to ICE sow distrust of law enforcement among community members, thus undermining community policing efforts. Lastly, immigration referrals unnecessarily divert scarce local resources and expose Orange County to potential civil liability.

Such a state of affairs violates a basic principle in law: that the time should fit the crime. Moreover, the policy’s impact on the wider-community has negative implications for the quality of our Latino neighborhoods.
While a large majority of Latinos support a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, a recent poll shows that the greater concern is with being able to live and work in the U.S. legally without the threat of deportation. The undocumented population, no surprise, is particularly likely to prioritize security from deportation over citizenship.  Among Latinos, “it’s the threat of deportation that casts the longest shadow on their communities,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, the Pew Research Center’s director of Hispanic research.

Compared to their counterparts in Orange County’s wealthy communities, it is far more likely for a young person in an immigrant community to come into contact with law enforcement.  Moreover, once criminal charges are brought, lack of local connections and financial resources all too often put immigrant children at a significant disadvantage. In any event, the justice system takes a different approach to offending minors.  In California, the juvenile justice system is directed to provide minors with “protection and safety” and “preserve and strengthen the minor’s family ties where possible.”

We treat our children differently because our children deserve a second chance at leading a better life. While individual responsibility and the role of the family cannot be understated, the community has a role in making that better life a more likely outcome. At present, it appears we are frustrating the prospects of a better life by forcing our children to be responsible for their immigration status and by subjecting them to the fear of deportation. So as to be responsive to the community for whom it serves, the Orange County Board of Supervisors should put the policy on hold and place it under review.

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13 Comments  comments 

13 Responses

  1. I have asked you many time this question and you have never answer it Editor: If you would have magic wand how would you resolve the Latino immigration issue.

    Give me 3 specific points to implement.

    • 1. End the drug war.
      2. Encourage Mexico to get rid of their monopolistic economy.
      3. Charge the undocumented a big sum so they can get legal resident status but not citizenship.

  2. Nod bad Editor!

    First two are a OK.

    However, the third one, even if it will probably happen, will be disaster because of our overwhelming welfare state and it would totally destroy our tax base.

    As you know, being from the behind the iron curtain immigrant, I have openly supported totally open borders, during my mayoral bid, providing that immigrants will not be eligible for any welfare and must support themselves and their families solely based on a legal earnings.

    A prove of employment and self support would provide eligibility for documentation (permanent residency, driver license etc.) After five years such migrant could apply for permanent status and strive to become an American.

    No cultural crapola and national separatism.

    If you want to permanently stay you must be an American in your heart and five years later you can apply for a citizenship.

    Seeking of an employment would not require any documents only tax number which would be available from any local federal government office.

    But that will never happen because of iLeft, Jewish ACLU and communist unions.

    So what ever happens will be another ObamaCare.

  3. Obama – record numbers of Deportations and 71% of Latinos voted for him.

  4. Carlos

    Mexico has used the US as their immigration safety valve too long.

    If the hard working people who came here from Mexico would return home and vote they could turn that into a free country and they wouldn’t *need* to come here.

    That would be much better for both countries. They could rid the country of drug gangs, corruption, and create economic activity, but they would have to be there to do it.

    People who yearn for freedom and economic prosperity could free that country.

    Unfortunately most of them came to the US instead of staying home and fighting for their country. That is a terrible brain drain that we have allowed and that should stop. That country needs hard working people.

    • “They could rid the country of drug gangs, corruption, and create economic activity, but they would have to be there to do it.”……………… Hmmmmmmmm

      So could we!

      Where are we?……. In the packets of unions and socialists electing idiot like Obama who is making our life as miserable as it is in Mexico.

      The world must stop this socialistic crapola.

  5. Anonymous

    You also have to understand that those “children” you are talking about are actually criminals. Were not talking run aways and petty theft, they are taken to juvenile hall for serious crimes. Due to the system implemented which we will call the “point system” you must score enough points to be booked into juvenile hall. So the ones that do make it in are murderers, sex offenders, serious assault, robbery, and so on. Those who don’t make the points are teleased home, ask any police officer in Orange County how difficult it is to book a juvrnile into juvenile hall. These”kids” are serious offenders and are deported, they are a danget to the community and sometimes they have to be removed. But don’t you worry, they are treated very well while incarcerated with pizza parties, I pods, field trips,christmas gifts, waterslides and so on…and no I’m not kidding.

    • Daniel Lamb

      The point system should be subject to standardization and transparency, just like other criminal proceedings. My fear is that it is arbitrary and/or based on the whims of individual probation officers. This is just about getting answers and figuring out what exactly is driving the numbers to be so disproportionally high.
      Further, I am trying to save the county a lot of money by heading-off an imminent lawsuit claiming a violation of due process. The county should pause, review, and explain its policy… whatever it is…

      • Anonymous

        There are many checks and balances to the point system and I don’t believe POs are incarcerating juvies on a whim. It is very difficult to get a juvenile put into juvie hall, they receive plenty of chances. I think the people who are fighting deportation are either ignorant of the process or they are just trying to work their agenda to further amnesty. I don’t know much this is just what I think.

    • Daniel Lamb

      And are we really going to deport a minor? Or is this just a kabuki dance to make people feet better about the immigration crisis? An expensive and oblique kabuki dance…

  6. Alan Cohetzatitla

    This Thursday! @ 5:30pm
    Join GGUSD board member Bao Nguyen and Congressman Lowenthal to talk about how the immigration policies that are currently in place have affected the lives of students and their education.
    Thursday, March 20th
    Rancho Alamitos High School
    in the Library
    11351 Dale Street, Garden Grove, California 92841
    RAIZ, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Keep Our Families Together