I often conduct hardship evaluations, during which I assess the negative impact U.S. citizen family members would suffer if their relative was deported. Usually, this is a parent and/or spouse. I assess the emotional and financial impact a deportation would have on these family members, and how this can lead to poor future outcomes for all.
Often family members are already showing significant signs of depression and/or anxiety when I meet with them, even if the family member has not yet left the country. The possibility that a spouse might lose their life partner for an indefinite and possibly permanent amount of time is devastating for most I see. This loss is often exacerbated when the couple has children. Not only does the spouse have the additional strain of raising the children on their own, but the spouse often worries about the impact on the children, who often suffer significantly emotionally as well. I have seen many examples of increased behavioral issues and academic decline linked to a departing parent. Children can start to act out at home or school or become withdrawn and depressed.
The loss of income when the deportee leaves the country often causes the family to fall into financial despair. The result frequently means moving out of and/or selling the family home, incurring massive debt and quite often falling into a state of poverty or bankrupcy. This financial pressure exacerbates the depression and anxiety for the single parent, already struggling emotionally in trying to come to terms with the departure of their loved one.
Finally, I look at how the decreased income and emotional strain can lead to poor future outcomes for the family. Educational and vocational opportunities are narrowed for both spouse and children with the limited financial situation. In addition, the emotional toll over time to a single parent and to children living in separation from a spouse/parent is devastating.
My hardship evaluations help to illustrate that it is not only the deportee who suffers in these situations. In describing the detailed ways in which the spouse and children of a deportee are impacted by such a forced move, my reports illuminate the human suffering of U.S. citizens left behind in a real and concrete way. My narratives help to remind the court that real people, both adults and children, are imminently impacted by the decisions made in these cases.