According to the New York Times, the latest trend among undocumented immigrants is having their children put up for adoption while they are detained, and in some cases deported.
The article mentions a May 2007 raid on a poultry processing plant where Encarnación Bail Romero and 135 other undocumented immigrants were detained. While some of those detained were released because they had small children, Encarnación, the mother of Carlos, who was 6 months old at the time, was unable to be released because she was charged with using false identification. A year and a half later, the courts terminated her rights to her child and Carlos was adopted by a local family. In her case, parental rights were taken away on the grounds of abandonment. However, was it her choice to go to jail and leave her baby? Unlikely.
Unfortunately, this appears to be a new trend among undocumented immigrant parents in detention centers. If caught, you run the risk of not only being deported, but losing your children in the process. For Maria Luis, a Guatemalan who was detained in April 2005, this also became her reality. She was deported and lost parental rights to her American-born son and daughter. To this day, she is still fighting to get them back.
The NYTimes article explains Encarnacion’s case: she was approached during her incarceration by an aide who told her that an American family was interested in adopting Carlos. Encarnación did not support the idea, and wanted her son kept in foster care until she could regain custody. Unable to read in Spanish or English, she received an adoption petition in jail shortly after. With the help of a cellmate, a guard and an English-speaking visitor, she was able to discern the notice and on a piece of notebook paper responded:
I do not want my son to be adopted by anyone. I would like to have visitation with my son.
However, the article explained that despite her request, 10 months passed without any response from the courts. Quoted in the New York Times she said:
I went to court six times, and six times I asked for help to find my son, but no one helped me.
As Encarnación’s battle continues, we have to think of the other undocumented immigrants fighting the same battle. Is this the way that anyone living in the United States would be treated? Would a U.S. citizen who used false identification run the same risk of losing custody of their children? These are questions that need to be looked at when addressing the inequities among people living in the United States, especially between immigrants and citizens.One should not be forced to lose their children because they are undocumented, and more needs to be done to tackle this issue and keep families together.
–Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow