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Illegal immigrants face loss of child custody when detained

The Applied Research Center reports that as of 2011, nearly 5,100 children in 22 states across the U.S. were in foster care as a result of their parents being either detained or deported on illegal immigration charges. In many of these cases, the parents had their parental rights stripped and their children were put up for legal adoption. This can understandably be a difficult and frustrating process for parents in Pennsylvania and across the country. Luckily, some of these parents are able to obtain temporary visas to remain in the country long enough to fight for child custody of their biological children, as in the recent case of one immigrant mother.

The mother illegally entered the U.S. from Guatemala, though her son was born in America some time after. Upon discovery of her illegal status, she was jailed and her son was placed in foster care with a family that later adopted him and raised him as if he were their own son. Several years later when the mother was released, she found herself unable to reclaim her child as her custodial and parental rights to her own child had been stripped.

Though she was jailed for being an illegal immigrant, the child custody proceedings were said to be based on her purported abandonment of her child rather than the fact she was being detained on immigration charges. However, it is argued on the mother's side that she never intended to abandon her child, and that she made several attempts to contact him but was physically unable to maintain a presence in her child's life.

Parents in Pennsylvania and across the country in similar circumstances will benefit by becoming aware of the rules and regulations currently in place regarding what they must do to avoid which may be interpreted as abandonment. This is especially so when such a parent may not have a clear understanding of the language and legal processes involved. It is understandable that every reasonable effort should be made to press for one's parental and child custody rights by demanding the opportunity to keep a family unit together. When immigration and child custody issues collide, a full and fair hearing before the appropriate family court should necessarily focus on protecting the best interests of the children by maintaining loving relationships already established and nurtured. The issue can be that much more complicated if a divorce or estranged partners are involved in the dispute.

Source: ABC News, "Illegal Immigrant Fights for Custody of Young Son," Olivia Katrandjian and Angela M. Hill, Feb. 28, 2012

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