By Pierre R. Berastain
What happens to children of parents who are caught in the process of deportation? According to a judge in Missouri, those children go to foster care. The logic couldn’t make more sense: the parents abandon their children, so the state is in its right to take over. It is estimated that over 5,100 children are in foster care while their parents face deportation. It doesn’t matter the parents provided a home for the children, or that the children enjoyed a bed every night and a meal every day. All that matters is that the parents committed the civil offense of remaining in the country without papers. It is one thing to enforce the law; it is another to separate families that have done nothing wrong besides seek a better future for themselves, a more comfortable lifestyle for their children, a safer place to call home.
On Wednesday a Missouri juvenile court judge terminated a Guatemalan woman’s rights to her 5-year-son because they believe she abandoned her child when she was imprisoned after a 2007 immigration sting at a poultry processing plant.
Encarnacion Romero, the mother of the child, cried as she was leaving the courtroom, according to the Joplin Globe. Romero’s attorney say they will appeal the decision.
The case garnered National attention when ABC’s “Nightline” covered the story in February 2012.
“This is a sad and outrageous outcome in this case, intolerable really,” said Rinku Sen, president and executive director of the Applied Research Center (ARC) and publisher of Colorlines.com. “All of our systems need to change the way they deal with children and parents affected by deportation, including the family courts.”
A 2011 investigation by Colorlines.com found that there are currently at least 5,100 children in foster care as a result of their undocumented parents being detained or deported.
President Obama acknowledge the findings in a subsequent briefing with reporters and said it was a real problem.
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34) has introduced legislation to address the rising number of children in foster care as a result of immigration enforcement. The “Help Separated Families Act of 2012” introduced earlier this month intends to keep children of detained or deported parents united with their families.