Roughly a quarter of all deportations over a recent two-year period were of people who said they had children who are U.S. citizens, according to data obtained by the news site Colorlines.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued 204,810 such deportations between July 1, 2010, and Sept. 31, 2012, the statistics showed.
The figure represents the number of times a parent of a U.S.-citizen child was deported, not the total number of deportees, since a person may have been deported more than once over the two-year span.
The actual number of deportations could be even higher, Colorlines reports, "because some mothers and fathers fear telling authorities that they have kids."
Mixed-status families, where one family member has legal status but not another, have become more common in the past decade. A 2009 report by the Pew Hispanic Center showed the number of undocumented immigrants with U.S.-citizen children increased from 2.7 million in 2003 to 4 million in 2008. The report showed that in 2008, three out of four children of undocumented immigrants were U.S. citizens.
Many of these parental deportations follow some sort of criminal conviction. The Arizona Republic looked at six-month period of deportations and found that 74 percent of deported parents of U.S. citizens had been convicted of a crime.
Whether all of those convictions are serious enough to result in deportation is a matter of debate between advocates and federal immigration authorities. But regardless of the actions of an adult, the impact on a child will be negative, according to Emily Butera, a senior program officer at the Women's Refugee Commission in Washington.
"Any deportation of a parent is a horrible thing for the child," she told Colorlines. "The reason for the deportation is immaterial for the kid."
An immigration reform bill in the coming year could lead to policy changes that affect these families, whether that means a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented or increased immigration enforcement.
The stresses of living in a mixed-status family go beyond deportation, says Nancy Meza, a 25-year-old DREAMer and UCLA graduate. Her two older brothers and three younger brothers were all born in the U.S. and are citizens, while she is undocumented.
As a result of her immigration status, Meza was ineligible for college financial aid and struggled to pay for school. "I had to overcome certain obstacles that my younger brothers didn't have to," she told ABC/Univision.
Her mother, a Mexican immigrant, left the U.S. for a period after losing her job, Meza says. For that reason, Meza was born in Jalisco, Mexico, but came to California with her mother when she was two years old.
"I know my situation is not unique, I know there are a lot of families who have mixed status."