A little-noticed instruction delivered by the Obama administration Friday requested that authorities exercise discretion when dealing with undocumented immigrants who have minor children.
The policy, called "The Parental Interests Directive", is aimed at the 5,100 U.S. citizen children of detained or deported undocumented immigrants who were living in foster care in 2011, according to the Applied Research Center.
While proponents of strict immigration enforcement called the instruction an underhanded form of amnesty, author of the Applied Research Center study Emily Butera said the command is aimed at closing the gap between federal immigration enforcement and state child welfare systems.
According to Butera, many child welfare authorities take a child without knowledge of the parents' situation, while parents in immigration custody are often unable to place a phone call to alert their children or other adults of their detention.
“The children are caught in a black hole because the two systems don’t understand each other and don’t cooperate very well,” Butera said.
Still, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte said the directive undermines Congress' attempt to find a bipartisan solution to the flawed immigration system.
“President Obama has once again abused his authority and unilaterally refused to enforce our current immigration laws," Goodlatte said. “Instead of working with Congress to address problems with our immigration system, the President is working against us.”
According to the Applied Research Center study, about 200,000 parents were deported between 2010 and 2012, and it is estimated that 15,000 children would be in foster care by 2016 if high numbers of detention and deportation continue.