Now up on the homepage is Patrck Dunne's article on the cruel and all-too-forseeable consequences of our immigration system. Dunne writes:

Under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, immigrants who have entered the United States illegally and have lived in this country “out of status” for over 180 days face a permanent ban forbidding them re-entry if they leave the country even momentarily—even for the out-of-country interview officially required for adjustment of status.[...] 

IIRIRA thus imposes a total separation of husband from wife, of father from children, for ten, even twenty years. It can be as traumatic for the family of an undocumented alien as a divorce or a death.

It is true that U.S. authorities may, at their discretion, waive this penalty. But such a waiver is rarely granted, even to one whose spouse and children can demonstrate the required “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship”—something like a severe, life-threatening disease afflicting the U.S. citizen spouse or children and jeopardizing medical intervention and long-term care if the ban is enforced. But loneliness, heartache, despair, economic hardship (repossession of car and home, child-care expense, bankruptcy)—what the Immigration Courts like to call the “normal result” of a years-long separation—won’t be enough for that waiver.

By the time [a deported husband and father] sees his young children again, they may hardly recognize him. Of course, his American family could rejoin him in Mexico, but that too could be a terrible hardship, for all the reasons that led the man to leave Mexico in the first place. Their economic prospects there may be grim, and the children will grow up without the kind of education and acculturation necessary to make them responsible citizens of the United States, the country of their birth. So much for family values.

Read the rest here.

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

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