Children in Limbo
What happens to the children of the undocumented arrested in workplace immigration raids like the one in Carthage, MO?
The New York Times reports they are being given away to foster families.
One of the 136 illegal immigrants detained in the raid was Carlos’s mother, Encarnación Bail Romero, a Guatemalan. A year and a half after she went to jail, a county court terminated Ms. Bail’s rights to her child on grounds of abandonment. Carlos, now 2, was adopted by a local couple.
Truly a depressing story. [More...]
Lawyers and advocates for immigrants say that cases like his are popping up across the country as crackdowns against illegal immigrants thrust local courts into transnational custody battles and leave thousands of children in limbo.
Next month, the Nebraska Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an appeal by Maria Luis, a Guatemalan whose rights to her American-born son and daughter were terminated after she was detained in April 2005 on charges of falsely identifying herself to a police officer. She was later deported.
It seems U.S. judges are intimidated by a body of water separating the U.S. and the child and parents' home country.
Patricia Ravenhorst, a South Carolina lawyer who handles immigration cases, said she had tried “to get our judges not to be intimidated by the notion of crossing an international border.”
“I’ve asked them, ‘What would we do if the child had relatives in New Jersey?’ ” Ms. Ravenhorst said. “We’d coordinate with the State of New Jersey. So why can’t we do the same for a child with relatives in the highlands of Guatemala?”
Family reunification needs to be a top priority of any immigration reform plan. Dora Schriro, an adviser to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano who visits many detention centers "said she had heard accounts of parents losing contact or custody of their children."
If we can send Elio Gonzales back to Cuba, why can't we send these children home? Or better yet, grant bond to to at least one parent in the U.S. so the child can remain with a mom or dad while the case winds its way through the court. Another option: If both parents are convicted, the judge can order them to serve their sentences sequentially, so that one parent is always home to live with and take care of the child. I've done that in a few cases with big drug dealers who had a kid doing well in school. If they had both gone to prison at the same time, there'd be no one to take care of the daughter, who had shown great progress and aptitude at school. My suggestion was dad goes in first for six years, then Mom goes, and the kid has a parent with her until she's 18. No need for foster homes at all.
All it takes is a little creativity and convincing a judge there's no law prohibiting this.
Separating a parent from a child is the most drastic, miserable thing we can do. There has to be a better way.
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