By Kirsten Bokenkamp
Senior Communications Strategist
Felipe Montes, the father of three US citizen children, was deported to Mexico in 2010 (his crime, by the way, was driving with an expired license). Upon his deportation, his children, all under the age of seven, were put into different foster families. Worse, he can’t claim them.
While Mr. Montes was in custody, ICE officials said they didn’t communicate with North Carolina’s Child Protective Services about Montes because it’s not their job to call child welfare officials every time a parent is detained. Because he was locked up and waiting to be deported, it wasn’t in Mr. Montes’ power to comply with the procedures of Child Protective Services. The result? Poof, he lost contact with his children. How is that for humanity? It is also worth noting that it costs the state $20,000-30,000 annually to keep one child in foster care (times three in this case).
We recently wrote about this happening to families (5,100 US born children are likely to get lost in the system when their foreign born parents are detained and deported) and this story makes it all too real. This policy (or lack of one, really) harms our society on multiple levels. How does separating children from their loving and supportive parents do anybody any good? Once in their home country, some parents literally have no way of finding out where their children are. And, in some cases, when parents are back in their native countries, (child welfare agencies) are denying parents custody by arguing that, even parentless, children are better off in the US. So much for parents’ rights.
How do we allow this to go on in our country?
ICE says that for parents who are ordered removed, it is their decision whether or not to relocate their children with them,” reiterating long-standing legal precedent on the rights of parents, regardless of their immigration status, but clearly that isn’t always the case.
So, when we talk about the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform, let’s all remember that it not just about undocumented versus documented … it is also about putting a stop to a system that separates children from their parents.