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Measuring the Social and Economic Costs of Detention, Deportation

The Zaldivars are among almost 277,000 Colorado residents living in households with an undocumented family member, including an estimated 130,000 children. (Zaldivar family)
The Zaldivars are among almost 277,000 Colorado residents living in households with an undocumented family member, including an estimated 130,000 children. (Zaldivar family)
July 2, 2018

DENVER — As officials struggle to meet a court-ordered deadline to reunite families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, a new report calculates the economic and social costs of current detention and deportation policies.

Christina Zaldivar participated in the Colorado Fiscal Institute survey. Her husband is in deportation proceedings. She said on top of mounting legal bills in a ten-year battle to keep him in the U.S., their children live in constant fear of the police, frequently perceived as ICE agents or collaborators.

"Which is very sad,” Zaldivar said; “because if my children were ever placed in a position of either they were lost, or they needed some actual legit assistance, they now have a legit fear if they call and ask for help, something bad will happen to any member of the community."

In the survey, more than 80 percent of parents reported children had experienced anxiety, fear, depression or separation trauma after a parent was deported, and over half sought treatment. The report said if current policies continue, Colorado taxpayers could end up on the hook for some $148 million in mental health costs.

Supporters of increasing deportations and border security say immigrants need to abide by U.S. laws and enter the country through proper channels.

Esther Turcios, policy analyst at the Colorado Fiscal Institute and the report's lead author, said in 2014, immigrant-led households added more than $10 billion to the state's economy and paid over $3 billion in federal, state, and local taxes. She said one common misconception is that immigrants don't want to follow the rules to live in the U.S. legally.

"I think a lot of people don't understand as well that a lot of the immigrants who are here came here in a legal manner, whether it was a visa – a student visa or work visa,” Turcios said. “There really is no easy road map or easy path to become a citizen."

Zaldivar said she agrees, and added that many immigrant families have deep connections with their communities.

"Everybody says, 'Do it the legal way.' Many of us have tried,” Zaldivar said. “A lot of them who are fighting their deportation cases have been here 20, 30, 40 years. This is basically the only home they've known for the last 40 years."

The report recommends repealing current detention and deportation policies, and calls for enforcement efforts that prioritize family unity over separation. In Colorado, more than 250,000 residents live in households with an undocumented family member, including an estimated 130,000 children.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO