Parents fearing deportation pick
guardians for U.S. children
Send a link to a friend
[March 03, 2017]
By Kristina Cooke and Mica Rosenberg
SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Parents
who immigrated illegally to the United States and now fear deportation
under the Trump administration are inundating immigration advocates with
requests for help in securing care for their children in the event they
are expelled from the country.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
advocacy group has been receiving about 10 requests a day from parents
who want to put in place temporary guardianships for their children,
said spokesman Jorge-Mario Cabrera. Last year, the group said it
received about two requests a month for guardianship letters and
At the request of a nonprofit organization, the National Lawyers Guild
in Washington D.C. put out a call this week for volunteer attorneys to
help immigrants fill out forms granting friends or relatives the right
to make legal and financial decisions in their absence.
In New Jersey, immigration attorney Helen Ramirez said she is getting
about six phone calls a day from parents. Last year, she said, she had
no such calls.
"Their biggest fear is that their kids will end up in foster care,"
President Donald Trump's administration has issued directives to agents
to more aggressively enforce immigration laws and more immigrants are
coming under scrutiny by the authorities.
For parents of U.S. citizens who are ordered removed, the U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency "accommodates, to the
extent practicable, the parents' efforts to make provisions" for their
children, said ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez. She said that might
include access to a lawyer, consular officials and relatives for
detained parents to execute powers of attorney or apply for passports
and buy airline tickets if the parents decide whether or not to take the
children with them.
Randy Capps of the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a Washington-based
non-profit that analyzes the movement of people worldwide, said that
while putting contingency plans in place is a good idea, he does not
think the level of fear is justified.
During the previous administration of President Barack Obama, a
Democrat, the likelihood of both parents being deported was slim, Capps
He doubts there will be a huge shift under Republican Trump toward
deporting both parents.
"The odds are still very low but not as low as they were – and this is
just the beginning of the administration," he said.
About five million children under the age of 18 are living with at least
one parent who is in the country illegally, according to a 2016 study by
MPI. Most of the children, 79 percent, were U.S. citizens, the study
In the second half of 2015, ICE removed 15,422 parents who said they
have at least one U.S.-born child, according to ICE data.
Obama was criticized for being the "deporter in chief" after he expelled
more than 400,000 people in 2012, the most by any president in a single
year. In 2014, the Obama administration began focusing on a narrower
slice of immigrants, those who had recently entered the country or
committed serious felonies. Trump has said he would still prioritize
criminals for deportation.
[to top of second column]
'WORRIED ALL THE TIME'
In rural New Jersey, Seidy Martinez and her husband Jose Gomez have
begun the difficult conversations with their 10-year-old daughter about
what would happen if her parents were deported.
Martinez, a house cleaner, and Gomez, who works on a horse farm, are
both from Honduras. They entered the United States illegally, and do not
have papers, unlike their daughter, who has been granted asylum, and
their 3-year-old son, a U.S. citizen.
"Now we are worried all the time. We don't have anything that would
allow us to stay here," said Martinez. "Our main concern is what will
happen to our children."
She has told her daughter that she could live with her aunt in Miami and
is considering drafting paperwork that would give her relative some
legal rights if she and her husband are deported. The 10-year old tries
to comfort her mother. "She tells me, 'Mami, tranquila. Don't be afraid,
I am scared too but don't worry everything will be OK.'"
'IF MOM DOESN'T COME HOME'
Rebecca Kitson, an immigration attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says
she advises her increasingly nervous clients to have the kind of
conversations Martinez and her husband are having with their children.
She said she urges parents to be specific in their instructions. "If Mom
doesn't come home by a specific time, who do [the kids] call?" said
Immigration groups are offering low-cost services. CHIRLA, for example,
offers a free sample letter and help filling it out, which then must be
notarized at a cost of about $10. But some parents here illegally say
they have had trouble finding affordable help.
Melvin Arias, 39, a New Jersey landscaper from Costa Rica who entered
the United States illegally 13 years ago, said he decided after hearing
news of stepped-up immigration enforcement to take legal precautions for
his five-year-old son and six-month old daughter, who are both U.S.
But when he asked for help from two different lawyers, Arias was told
preparing legal documents would cost him between $700 and $1,250. He is
looking for a cheaper way to obtain the paperwork he needs.
"If there comes a time when both of us have a problem, I want there to
be a responsible person who can come and get [the children] for us, to
take them to wherever we might be,” Arias said.
(Reporting By Kristina Cooke in San Francisco and Mica Rosenberg in New
York; Editing by Sue Horton and Grant McCool)
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.