Deported Mexican dad to be reunited with US-born kids
Deported father Felipe Montes, a Mexican national, should be reunited with his three US-born children next month, a North Carolina judge said this week. The ruling brings closer to resolution a two-year legal battle that has garnered international attention.
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Immigration reform activists call Montes' plight an example of how deported parents are often permanently separated from their American children.Skip to next paragraph
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A 2011 report from the Applied Research Center, a New York-based racial justice think tank, found about 5,100 children in 22 states were in foster care after their parents were either detained or deported. The federal government doesn't compile national numbers on such separations.
Though immigration officials say it is not their intent to break up families, there's no uniform policy to ensure parents undergoing deportation can arrange for their children's care.
The First Focus Campaign for Children, a Washington D.C. based immigrant advocacy group, used Montes' situation this year to push for two new laws in California aimed at preventing family separations triggered by deportation. Spokeswoman Yali Lincroft predicted yesterday's ruling in North Carolina will set a legal precedent other courts will pay attention to.
"Hopefully, this case will make the child welfare system aware of due process, so that this sort of thing doesn't happen again," Lincroft said.
Allegany County officials moved to terminate Montes' parental rights after the deported father sought to have his children sent to Mexico, where he works at a walnut farm and shares a house with his uncle, aunt and three nieces.
A home study by Mexican social services authorities shows the cement block house has a refrigerator, satellite television, microwave and plenty of space for children to play. There's a school a few minutes away. But North Carolina officials balked at sending the three boys to live in El Encino, expressing concern the house there doesn't have running water.
Under Duncan's ruling, Montes' sons will go to live with him Dec. 7 in a Sparta hotel room paid for with the help of the Mexican government. The judge said he wanted to monitor how the boys are doing until Feb. 19, when a follow-up hearing is scheduled. The judge could grant Montes full custody and clear the way for the boys to go to Mexico with their father.
Montes' current visa is set to expire Dec. 23. His immigration lawyer, Ann Robertson, said on Nov. 27 she will apply to get the humanitarian parole extended until the court case is resolved.
Montes recently found out his wife is expecting their fourth child. He said he looks forward to the day his family can live together under one roof.
"The plan is to do whatever the judge asks me to do so I can get full custody and go back to Mexico with my kids," he said.