Most people in Maryland learned in civics class that children born in the U.S. automatically become citizens. But if their parents are immigrants without proper documentation, this sharp distinction between citizen-child and immigrant parent can lead to the division of families. According to information culled from the Freedom of Information Act and compiled by the Applied Research Center, during the first six months of 2011 alone, immigration authorities deported over 46,000 undocumented parents of children born in this country.
In many cases, the children are left behind in the U.S. and are put up for adoption. One immigrant mother's case is illustrative. Immigration authorities placed the woman in a detention facility because she lacked the correct paperwork, and a court ordered her young son to be placed on an adoption list.
The child was adopted and was living with his new family when, after years of battling through the legal system, she obtained a new hearing in the case. The measure was ultimately to no avail, however, as the judge ruled that the boy should not be returned to his mother.
Some states, such as California, are seeking measures to ease the burden on immigrants in cases like this. The Senate in that state has passed a bill that would give families greater ability to reunite in the event one or both parents are deported. The legislation would also provide immigrant parents who are taken into custody the choice of having their children stay with a friend or a relative.
This proposed legislation is not national and, if passed, would not provide those benefits to immigrant parents in the Virginia and Maryland areas. But perhaps it may galvanize other states to examine and address what is most certainly a national issue: the breakup of immigrant families.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Detained immigrants losing kids," Kurt C. Organista, Aug. 27, 2012
• The intersection of immigration and child welfare laws can produce quite complex cases. If you would like more information on our firm, please visit our Washington, D.C. family-based immigration page.