"If it was just for me, I would have left but I feel like if I leave my girls here, I would be abandoning them. I need to stay here for them.” - Patrick Thaxter

Immigration detention doesn't only harm the people detained. Their families, deprived of the emotional and financial support of their loved ones for months and years, also suffer. They are frequently evicted from their homes because of their lost source of income, the children suffer psychological trauma, and savings are exhausted on legal fees and travel costs to visit those detained in facilities hours away from their homes. 

Patrick Thaxter, a longtime green card holder, is the loving father to five U.S. citizen children. For years, he worked as a chef at a Caribbean restaurant in Philadelphia to support his family, and picked his children up from school every day. Mr. Thaxter was Vice President of the Parent-Teacher Association at his youngest daughter's elementary school. After school, he took them to the park, to the movies, and helped them with their homework. As he explained, "“It is a blessing to have kids. I never had a father figure growing up and I want to be there for my children, always.”

Photo courtesy of Patrick Thaxter.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Thaxter.

This fulfilling life fell apart when Mr. Thaxter was taken into immigration custody at York County Prison outside of Philadelphia. Unable to afford rent, his children--the youngest of whom was seven--were evicted and were forced to move to Georgia to live with their aunt. Before their eviction, Mr. Thaxter’s children had been able to visit him in detention every other week. But afterwards, with a heavy heart, Mr. Thaxter told them to stop coming. The trip — a thirteen-hour drive in each direction — was just too expensive and emotionally exhausting. Patrick tried to parent by phone as best he could but his daughters, who had all been honor roll students, suffered academically and socially due to the stress of being separated from their father.

When Mr. Thaxter was finally released after three years in detention, the first thing he did was go with his family to celebrate at Red Lobster. But as his former wife lamented, "My girls can’t get back the three years they lost of their father. Patrick is such a devoted father, and our immigration system took him away from his family for no reason. It ripped our family apart, and we are still trying to recover from it.”