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Who will care for the children of parents who get deported?

The state of Arizona is about to face a crisis related to the federal and state crackdown on illegal immigration. Who will raise the children born here in America when their parents get deported?

Last year, the Migration Policy Institute conducted a study and determined that there are at least 5 million minor children with at least one parent who is living in America without proper immigration documents. Of the total number of children, nearly 80 percent hold American citizenship.

In the decade from 2003 to 2013, according to the MPI, authorities deported 3.7 million immigrants. Of those sent back to their countries of origin, 20 to 25 percent had children who were American citizens.

Sometimes the children are lucky and have adult extended family members who are willing to step up and take custody of their deported relatives' minor children. But often, those relatives are without the legal immigration documents they need to initiate a custody action. Drawing attention to their own precarious positions could get them deported, too.

Since the new president took over in January, the immigration services coordinator of the Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA) has seen an influx of parents without green cards making arrangements to appoint guardians for their children if the parents get deported.

The American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) outreach coordinator in Phoenix advises undocumented parents to execute powers of attorney as soon as possible before they come to the attention of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

The outreach coordinator also spoke to public school officials who said that students sometimes remark that it has been awhile since they saw their mom and dad. Under Arizona law, school officials have the duty to report those circumstances to the Department of Child Safety (DCS).

It's the goal of caseworkers to reunify these kids with their families whenever possible. When parents have been deported, if extended family members don't take custody, the kids wind up as foster children in the system. They may experience horrific physical or sexual abuse from some of these placements.

If you are an extended family member trying to pursue custody of children whose parents have been deported, you should seek legal guidance to ensure that you understand the options that are available to you.

Source: Phoenix New Times, "What Happens To U.S. Citizen Kids After Their Only Parent Is Deported?," Antonia Noori Farzan, Sean Holstege, accessed Aug. 18, 2017

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