United States Immigration authorities have granted a Mexican man additional time in which to try to regain custody of his children before being returned to his native country. Robert Franklin, Esq. reports for Fathers and Families.
Felipe Montes lived in North Carolina with his wife Maria and their three children, ages 1, 3 and 4. He was here illegally, so, when he was stopped for a traffic violation, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported him to Mexico.
That was in 2010. With Montes gone, the local Child Protective Services took the three children into foster care due to Maria’s problems with illicit drug use and mental problems. The children have now been in foster care for two years and their foster families want to adopt them.
But Felipe didn’t give up on getting his kids back With the help of the Mexican Consulate, he hired an attorney and ICE did something that’s to its everlasting credit and something rarely heard of. It allowed Montes a 90-day humanitarian visa that would allow him to be present in court when the custody decisions about his kids were made. Then ICE went one better; when the original 90 days proved insufficient to complete the decision-making about custody, it granted him still more time in this country. Montes now has until December 23rd, and his attorney believes the case should be decided by November 19th or close to it.
We’re seeing this more and more. When parents in this country are discovered and deported, the question arises – what about their kids? Particularly if a foreign-born person has children with an American spouse who then proves to be an unfit parent, child welfare authorities routinely opt to place the kids in foster care and have them adopted rather than keep them with the deported parent. So far we’ve seen this play out in Idaho and Michigan with different results in each state.
The Idaho Supreme Court sharply rebuked a lower court and the local child welfare authority for attempting to force adoption on a little boy who had a perfectly fit father in Mexico. It rightly ruled that the father had not been shown to be unfit and thus had parental rights superior to those of anyone else. The Michigan courts reached a different conclusion that I would argue is wrong both legally and morally.
In Montes’ case, I would argue that, because he’s the children’s natural father, his rights trump those of all comers save Maria’s if she ever proves herself to be a fit, loving mother. There’s so far no evidence that Montes is an unfit parent and, I suspect, if he were, the State of North Carolina would have proved it by now. What we know is that he’s a father who’s bent heaven and earth to try to keep his family together in the face of a powerful state agency that’s bent on tearing it apart. Short of a showing of unfitness, Felipe Montes’ sons need to live with him; they need to reestablish relationships with their father and their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. in Mexico.