At a town hall in Mursfreeboro, Tenn., 11-year-old U.S. citizen Josie Molina approached the stage to ask anti-immigration reform Congressman Scott DeJarlais (R-TN) whether there was anything she could to do stop her father’s imminent deportation proceeding. “I have a dad who’s undocumented and what can I do so that he can stay with me?” she asked as her voice trembled. But when DesJarlais broke the news to her that “we have laws that we need to follow,” the crowd broke into rousing applause.
DesJarlais fielded questions about undocumented immigrants who want to serve in the military and from so-called DREAMers, who are undocumented youths brought to the country by their parents. But at all times, DesJarlais remained adamantly opposed to immigration reform, each time making border security and law-breaking the focal points of his argument. When Molina asked her question, DesJarlais responded just the same.
JOSIE MOLINA: I have a dad who’s undocumented and what can I do so that he can stay with me?
REP. DESJARLAIS: Joanna, thank you for being here and thank you for coming forward to speaking to us. This is a big intimidating crowd, and I appreciate you coming forward to ask your question. But the answer still kind of remains the same that we have laws and we need to follow those laws and that’s where we’re at.
But the law is not as cut and dry as DesJarlais suggests. The Obama administration implemented a policy to limit enforcement that includes consideration of whether an individual has a U.S. citizen child or spouse. The policy also allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to focus deportations on criminal immigrants.
The immigration bill that passed the Senate would provide a path to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants, and allow parents to make decisions about their child’s care before they are deported. The bill is pending before the House, with many Republicans like DesJarlais withholding their support. In the absence of such reform, more than 205,000 parents of U.S. citizen children like Molina, have been deported between 2010 and 2012.