Deportation's Ripple Effect

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A boys shows a US flag as President Barack Obama speaks on immigration at the Chamizal National Memorial on May 10, 2011 in El Paso, Texas. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty)

A new VICE documentary, "Immigrant America: The High Cost of Deporting Parents", tracks the ripple effects of the deportation of a Guatemalan immigrant on his community in Guatemala and his family in the U.S. Roy Germano, filmmaker, social scientist, and immigration reporter, discusses the film and Obama's deportation policy.


Roy Germano

Comments [39]

Emd00 from US

A few thoughts.
I’ve worked in a field that has exposed me to a lot of poor and formerly incarcerated young men who have been involved in the drug trade and petty crime. They’ve served difficult jail time, and been separated from children because they broke the law. (As is justified) And what have many said about why they were selling drugs and stealing? “To provide for my family.” Where is the sympathy or second chance for them? I don’t see breaking immigration laws, or (often) committing identity fraud as being much different. Desperate people do desperate things- but it is curious to me that some people get documentaries and marches ,and others don’t. The plight of the illegal immigrant is for some reason, lifted above the average poor American born who breaks laws. I don’t understand the disparity.
Additionally, while it is of course sad to break up families, I think that problem speaks to the need to change both birthright citizenship and deportation policy. When someone is born here to an illegal parent, they should not be granted citizenship. And when a minor child’s primary caregiver is deported , they should be deported as well. The US shouldn’t be left financially and otherwise responsible for an unaccompanied child.

Mar. 29 2014 09:25 PM


"You cannot have a rational discussion on the subject with those who do not recognize reality. Illegal immigrants are violating the laws of this nation and therefore have committed a CRIME!!! This makes them CRIMINALS."

Actually, dansbenz, overstaying a visa or entering the country without documentation are misdemeanors. There is no Federal statute relating to merely being in the country improperly. Therefore, illegal immigrants ARE NOT violating the laws by being here. Misdemeanors are NOT felonies. Equating the two makes about as much sense as giving the death penalty for jaywalking.

Mar. 23 2014 04:34 PM

The immigration system in this country is due for an overhaul. That being said you have to live with what it is until it is changed!! There are millions of people who have immigrated LEGALLY under the current system. What I ask is why we should support those who have chosen not to do so??? You cannot have a rational discussion on the subject with those who do not recognize reality. Illegal immigrants are violating the laws of this nation and therefore have committed a CRIME!!! This makes them CRIMINALS. Do all the illegals want to become a citizen, probably not. They are here for economic reasons only, to earn money to send back home and probably plan on returning to their country of origin.

Mar. 22 2014 02:51 AM
Rai from Long Island / the Bronx

Brian Lehrer and team, THANK YOU for taking my call regarding deportations! Sorry I went on too long :( but thank you for the opportunity to share my story. Immigration is complex and intertwined with so many other "things," from the local to the global.

Mar. 20 2014 06:13 PM
Joseph from Collingswood, NJ

The lack of empathy that people on this comments thread represent is the root of all human ills.

Mar. 20 2014 04:00 PM

The "stealing jobs" argument is always very humorous to me because no one blames the American citizen who is KNOWINGLY hiring all the undocumented workers so he can increase his revenue receives NO blame in this socio-economic case of immigration. It is always in our human nature to blame someone and diminish their own deterioration by blaming it on someone else a la the undocumented immigrant, who is ever so easy to point the finger at.

It is absolutely DISGUSTING for someone to believe the notion that tearing apart one's family is the right thing to do because they broke the law. We are talking about FAMILY here. The one thing most immigrants cherish and share because they are already completely isolated, it brings them love and happiness and we believe it is okay to simply vanish that from one's life? It is quite easy for one that has never lived in fear, or held the hardships of an undocumented worker to just throw out their ignorant comments out there - and no one wants to be in those shoes, and quite frankly they would not survive basing off the opinions of individuals being threatened by an undocument immigrant because of what they might take away from them, oh the irony.

The immigration system is BROKEN - it is not the fault of the people but alas the fault of the structured hand controlling everything: the government.

Human nature is an eternal war of chaos. The understanding of individuals stating tearing a family apart is not the prime conflict but, the notion of being undocumented and trying to start a better life is the highest conflict of life. I dare you to put yourself in one's shoes that has a shadow cast over them that they cannot control because the immigration system is broken and a reform needs to me constituted right now.

Mar. 20 2014 02:05 PM

"Of course, they will leverage unfair advantage and pay the lowest wage possible. It's up to WORKERS to fight this predation."

So the responsibility to fight against corrupt employers falls on the already disadvantaged? That's a very American mindset. You can eliminate the "of course" by...creating laws preventing businesses from leveraging a race to the bottom! Easy.

As you can see even in this discussion, no one says "we must crack down on employers willing to employ undocumented immigrants for slave wages and terrible conditions." You always hear, "they're stealin' err jerbs!" (South Park accent). It's similar to how one outside a marriage is considered a "homewrecker," or how tenants of accused of raising rents. Nope, nope, and nope.

Stop scapegoating the workers for employer actions. If employers didn't make such jobs appealing to undocumented immigrants, they would be less likely to seek work here.

Mar. 20 2014 11:41 AM
Shoshona from Manhattan

No, I'm sure they don't. But if you had the cavalier attitude with my Aunt who had to clean up and audit and also deal with stolen credit by an illegal immigrant she would tell you a thing or two. It's been years and she has still not fixed everything and had to pay for legal and financial help in dealing with it.

Mar. 20 2014 11:37 AM
Eric from Brooklyn, NY

to jm, who said "i've never understood the "job stealing" argument. Do immigrants have the power to demand jobs?"

Are you familiar with the concept of under-bidding? If you want some drywall installed in your house and one guy will ask for $150 a day for installing it, and another guy will do it for $60, which offer will you take? And which guy you think is more likely to be illegal?

You probably don't understand because you probably have a specialized career job that gives you a nice salary and job security, and there's nothing wrong with that. But your ignorance of the cut-throat world of semi-skilled labor doesn't mean people aren't being under-bid, every day, by illegal immigrants. Believe me, it exists.

Employers have a demand, and that is to get the maximum amount of work for the lowest price possible. When you have a sector of the workforce that is more likely to take what is offered, and is completely unprotected by OSHA, minimum wage, and payroll tax laws, you have many problems, not least of which is the expectation of more work for less money, which affects us all.

Mar. 20 2014 11:35 AM
Amanda from Brooklyn

Isn't it a bit disingenuous to want the government to ignore the immigration laws, but enforce the employment laws? Who are we fooling here?

On that note, who decides what laws to ignore? Maybe my life would be improved if I stopped paying income taxes, so I could pay my rent easier or pay for daycare for my child. It's just a law, right - what's the harm?

Mar. 20 2014 11:33 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Oh Shoshana, FYI - The IRS could care less if undocumented people paid taxes, so they welcome it. Many do so with a LEGAL tax ID #

Mar. 20 2014 11:27 AM

and by the way, since it costs over 20 grand per year per child in NYC just for education let alone other programs for health, food, etc, you cannot tell me that an illegal worker could possibly be paying more into the system than they are taking from the rest of us. Impossible at even a decent wage.

Mar. 20 2014 11:24 AM

I love how common sense goes out the window with this topic. If millions of low skilled workers flood a market competing for jobs with a nations own unskilled force, that means someone will be willing to work for a lower wage to get that scarcer job and wages go down. There is no way around this basic truth. You can raise a minimum wage, but that will force more work under the table. Look around NYC, you know its happening already. You might not like it, but prohibition should teach you that you cannot control it.

Mar. 20 2014 11:15 AM
Ron from NYC

I know some real scumbags who are here illegally.
How do I go about getting them deported?
As far as I can see, nobody is ever deported from NY.

Mar. 20 2014 11:15 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Hey, jm, nobody's withholding blame from employers. Of course, they will leverage unfair advantage and pay the lowest wage possible. It's up to WORKERS to fight this predation. And underground immigrants are resistant to putting up this fight.

Mar. 20 2014 11:13 AM
Grace from Brooklyn, NY

Illegal immigration status is a character judgement. People who have broken the law initially by entering illegally are stuck in a pattern of breaking the law.As a feminist, I am especially concerned about the physical safety of women and children being "muled" through the human trafficking system, then there is the ecological disaster that this illegal highway causes and the callous attitude of our border agents. Immigration needs to be through legal channels. And to anyone whose nannies, helpers, etc. beloved though they be aren't legal, and are being paid below what the work is worth, you are part of the problem.My entire family immigrated here.

Mar. 20 2014 11:13 AM

Determining who to deport based on the amount of harm caused by exercising the law is an administrative judges call, not mine. I would like all persons who entered the country illegally or who no longer have a legal status here to return to their native country and apply for immigration status. I understand that many of the people in this category feel that the United States is their country but, bottom line, that is not the case.

The easily exploited pool of illegal immigrant labor is holding down wages, overstressing our housing stock, our schools and our hospitals.

Bad immigration policy and NAFTA have created this problem. We need to correct the issue without the bigotry.

Mar. 20 2014 11:12 AM
Shoshona from Manhattan

If they paid taxes into social security and have an illegal status, it means they stole an identity. Beyond being a federal crime, it takes years to clean up the mess for the actual citizen. Quite frankly, since we have so many social safety nets (which we need), illegal immigration is a strain not only on government resources, but also on low wage workers who have to compete with illegal labor. You used to be able to raise a family as a gardener or painter. Try that now.

Mar. 20 2014 11:08 AM

'Americans "won't do" those jobs because wages and conditions are often kept low by underground immigrants who are usually resistant to organizing.'

Employers keep the wages and conditions low. Why do you act as if employers have zero blame?

How about simply enforcing a livable minimum wage and work conditions?

To address MN from Man's question, why does everyone dismiss these arguments from Native Americans as facetious? How are their claims any less valid than those who advocate for mass deportation? Just because your family may have immigrated here "legally" at some point doesn't mean it was legal according to laws prior to European colonization.

For the record, both sides of my family immigrated from Canada. It may or may not have happened "legally" by some arbitrary set of laws.

Mar. 20 2014 11:06 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@Truth many un-documented immigrants pay taxes, and into social security - which they will never collect.

Also, I assume when your ancestors came here - "legally", it was the de-facto status.

Mar. 20 2014 11:02 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

The government should focus on deporting undocumented criminals, as opposed to other-wise, hard-working immigrants.

Children that came here when they were young - through no fault of their own, should be given legal status, provided they do not have a serious criminal record. This is the only country they know and were educated in.

As for adults who come here without documentation, to find a better life; they are not bad people for seeking opportunity. However, they should be aware of the ramifications of starting a family here whilst still being undocumented.

Mar. 20 2014 10:57 AM

Hi Brian, love sho, you, your incisive point of view, etc etc.
For those who are staunch against the idea of humanistic stance to immigration as represented by your guests today......does almost everyone realize that they are "immigrants"; except for our Native Americans, we are all immigrants, from some where else. In my case, Scotland b4 Rev. War, then a bit later mostly from Germany.
Listening to your show today and the examples presented, I think that our current immigration laws are ignorant, blunt and designed, for the most part to assuage the limits of narrow and uncompassionate points of view.
I could go on, but time constrains...
Thank you,
Big fan,

Mar. 20 2014 10:56 AM
RJ from prospect hts

Can we not forget that "illegal immigration" has been a political and economic football for about 150 years? Since we exploited Chinese workers to do the dirty work of building railroads and bridges, the official "bracero" program that accommodated the agribusiness industry that wanted cheap labor ... and continues to do so? The idea of an urgent danger posed by current undocumented immigrants is a construct of the US fear industry that looks for danger under every rock and won't examine the genuine global issue of displaced people.

Mar. 20 2014 10:54 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Let's be clear:
• Americans "won't do" those jobs because wages and conditions are often kept low by underground immigrants who are usually resistant to organizing.
• Underground immigration has a net negative economic effect on working class Americans.
• To break an immigration law is to commit a crime.
Yes, we need to be sympathetic to the plight of underground immigrants, but needed productive discourse cannot rest on lies.

Mar. 20 2014 10:52 AM

so if i want to move to england or china or france, as long as i make it through the border, i should be given a path to citizenship. laws and procedures are irrelevant if i have a child there. great, thanks.

Mar. 20 2014 10:51 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I preface this by saying that my forebears immigrated to the US, legally, and became naturalized citizens, worked hard and paid taxes.

However, as a taxpayer, I resent funding with my tax dollars all the costs associated with people who come to this county illegal, fly under the radar, expect their children to go to schools paid for by our taxes, and go to hospital emergency rooms which I pay for with my tax dollars. In addition, many immigrants come to this country specifically to have children here so that their children are citizens even if they are not. They continue to live here, working illegally and not paying taxes and using their US-born children as an excuse not to be deported.

I truly sympathize with anyone who's home circumstances are so bad that they need to leave their country of origin, but if they want to come to the US, they need to do it legally, with visas and eventual naturalization, and they need to work on the books and pay their taxes. If not, they are more than welcome to return to their home country.

NO sovereign nation wants human leeches.

Mar. 20 2014 10:51 AM

How DARE that illegal/dreamer not apply for deferred status! These people piss me off. She thinks she is "more American" than native born folks? She thinks because she got pregnant and had a kid here she has contributed to this society? I'm not against finding a way to provide a "path to citizenship", but for that witch to not want to meet the American people half way? To not take the hand up that is proferred? Deport her. Deport her now.

Mar. 20 2014 10:50 AM
MN from Man

I am Native American I say if you could WALK to the USA or take a short ride on a boat of less than two hours ( like say via Siberia) you have a RIGHT to be here. EVERY one else did NOT get entry permits from the Native American Nations, and the Iroquois Confederation of Six Nations when they came here from Europe.. you are therefore Illegaly and should be deported to Europe if you seek to deport other Native people from Central America who are related to Natives here

Mar. 20 2014 10:50 AM

I've never understood the "job stealing" argument. Do immigrants have the power to demand jobs? I always thought employers made the hiring decisions.

Mar. 20 2014 10:48 AM

Everything I hear and read about immigration enforcement indicates that the agency hires persons with a sadistic streak. Even when deportation or border stopping might be justified, there is no excuse for the cruel way the enforcement agents behave.

Mar. 20 2014 10:48 AM

so come here illegally, pop out a kid and then you are more american than american born and you get to stay here because you popped out a kid? sounds like a scam.

Mar. 20 2014 10:47 AM

so reward someone who stayed under the radar? basically reward those who dont get caught? would we tolerate illegal aliens from known terrorist sponsoring countries? would we have tolerated illegal italian, japanese and germain immigrants during world war 2? both my parents are immigrants. my aunts and uncles. my grandparents. tons of family friends are immigrants. they all came legally. they are disgusted that they had to do everything thing the proper way and we are now excusing those who broke the law to get here.

Mar. 20 2014 10:44 AM
Veronica from New York

I've been in this country for 24 years jumping from one visa status to the next, ALL LEGALLY. However, last year I was laid off and lost my work-based visa status. I have been once on deportation proceedings for aging out and my whole family is here LEGALLY; however, now I have artist visa. The fear of deportation is real because though you are LEGALLY here, you can lose that easily. A path to citizenship isn't just for illegals, but for many of us that are here LEGALLY. How is it possible to have been in a country for over half your life, pay taxes and have your whole family here and NOT have a green card or citizenship. This is unreal!!!
Deportation is inhuman. I have seen it, legal or illegal. Getting a driver's license as a legal visa holder is another nightmare. It's like living with a false sense of security. Legal or not.

Mar. 20 2014 10:42 AM

Do you suppose the "I did it for a better life for me and my family" logic can work in other areas? It's almost tax time and I'm sure I would have a higher standard of living if I did not have to comply with this law. I think I will just leave my income taxes "undocumented" this year.

Mar. 20 2014 10:41 AM
Eric from Brooklyn, NY

OK, so I suppose I'm going to be flamed for this. But I find it dismaying that the debate has shifted to the point that the word "illegal" is now not PC. I know people enter the country illegally simply to find work, but it does not change the fact that they have broken this country's laws by doing so. I am not anti-immigrant, I have a lot of friends and coworkers who have immigrated here, and frankly, it's not fair to lump people who have worked very hard to follow the rules in with people who haven't. It's part of the 'exceptional' culture that has infected both right and left, where different groups, whether they be ultra-wealthy or illegal immigrants, are given a pass and told that they don't have to follow the same rules other people do. Yes, it gets complicated when people have lived here for years, and there's no simple answers. But simply put, when I enter another country, I am bound to respect that country's laws, regardless of whether I agree with them. These are the progressive values that were ingrained in me at a young age. Why, then, do modern progressives ignore this fact, at least when it comes to others entering our country illegally?

Mar. 20 2014 10:41 AM
Veronica from new york

I've been in this country for 24 years jumping from one visa status to the next, ALL LEGALLY. However, last year I was laid off and lost my work-based visa status. I have been once on deportation proceedings for aging out and my whole family is here LEGALLY. The fear of deportation is real because though you are LEGALLY here, you can lose that easily. A path to citizenship isn't just for illegals, but for many of us that are here LEGALLY. How is it possible to have been in a country for over half your life, pay taxes and have your whole family here and NOT have a green card or citizenship. This is unreal!!!

Mar. 20 2014 10:39 AM
Rad from New York City

I find it so fascinating that a lot of illegal immigrants stories (including my own) include a phrase: "There was a paperwork mix up at USCIS"

Mar. 20 2014 10:39 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Just like "stop & frisk," the practice of deportation has gotten so off-track that it's sadistic. Deport criminals and illegals who have only been here briefly, don't tear families apart!

Mar. 20 2014 10:36 AM

As terrible as it is to “break apart families”, if you are in the united states of america illegally, meaning you broke a law to enter the country, you are here illegally. There are PLENTY of people who want to and try to emigrate here LEGALLY. Why should someone who entered the country illegally get any kind of special privileges? It is ridiculous.

Mar. 20 2014 10:34 AM

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