Children of undocumented immigrants living in San Diego can sometimes become lost in the system when their parents are detained or deported. Foreign-born parents of children born in the United States sometimes opt to take their children with them, but many times the children are left with relatives. Occasionally, when parents are deported back to their countries quickly, children can unfortunately wind up in foster care when relatives cannot be located.
Two high-profile cases illustrate what can happen to children of parents struggling with the immigration process. In the first case, a mother is attempting to regain custody of her 5-year-old son after a poultry plant raid landed her in federal custody. She lost her parental rights, and her son was legally adopted by another family. In another case, a mother who was deported lost her four children to the foster system, where they are currently awaiting their fate.
According to a report from a social justice magazine, more than 5,000 children are in the foster care system after their immigrant parents were either detained or deported. The numbers, while high, are not necessarily surprising given the potential for multiple cases of children being left behind in the United States. The Pew Hispanic Center reported in 2008 that approximately 3.8 million illegal immigrants were parents of U.S. citizen children.
Many obstacles make it difficult for immigrant parents to keep their children when the parents have been detained or deported. Unfortunately, family court judges sometimes make decisions based upon the parent’s immigration status instead of the ability to care for their children. Some recommendations for organizations to work together in the best interests of the children include allowing judges the ability to consider the possible harm caused to a child if the parents are deported, increase of communication and information sharing between agencies, allowing parents to have contact with their children and also allowing them to participate in court proceedings where the fate of their child is determined.
Parents of United States children who are battling with immigration issues deserve the ability to fight to keep their children with them or place them with caring relatives. Children are often victims of the system in cases like these. In the San Diego area, speaking with someone experienced in deportation defense may help parents who have been detained or even deported fight for themselves as well as the best interests of their children.
Source: Multi-American, “What about the kids? What can happen when parents are deported,” Leslie Berestein Rojas, Feb. 3, 2012