There are many reasons to delight in Joanna Dreby’s writing. My favorite these days is her commitment to some kind of relational writing. In “How Today’s Immigration Enforcement Policies Impact Children, Families, and Communities: A View from the Ground,” Dreby uses a common social experience (i.e., that couples get divorced) to illustrate a more foreign situation (i.e., that undocumented immigrants get deported). In anticipating her readers’ lack of connection to immigrant families and their simultaneous sympathy for divorced families, Dreby successfully brings everyone on board:
The separation of fathers from their children is not all that uncommon. But research shows that when fathers voluntarily migrate, they maintain contact with their children via regular phone calls, gift giving, and remittances. Children still feel resentful toward their fathers for leaving, but their fathers remain a part of their lives, much the same as a divorced father who shares custody and visits with his children regularly.
Dreby uses our knowledge about divorced families to illustrate the lives of families that get split across borders. Then, as though she also anticipates the risk of normalizing immigrant families’ experiences, she also clarifies:
Deportation, in contrast, severs paternal bonds with children…While many American families face single parenthood, in this case it is the actions of the federal government that make the families so. Likewise, the precarious legal status of many of the parents left behind leaves a double burden on these families.
I wish more writers thought about their audiences like she does. Joanna Dreby is a sociology professor at the University of Albany. Her report on the impact of immigration policies on families was published by the Center for American Progress in 2012. She also holds a Ph.D. from the Graduate Center, CUNY, where this journal was born.