As part of the crackdown on curbing illegal immigration, authorities occasionally raid factories or farmlands in efforts to capture undocumented individuals working under false identities. Despite the usual reservations that activists have against such action, there are other problems surfacing as a result of these raids. Particularly, these problems look another set of victims: the children of the immigrants who have been deported or are currently being held in detention.
One such case is that of Encarnación Bail Romero. Almost two years ago, a raid captured 136 immigrants in a poultry processing plant nearby Carthage, Missouri. Ms. Romero was amongst those captured, and her then 6-month old son, Carlos, went under the guardianship of two aunts. Both women, unable to care for the child, had little choice but to accept an offer by a local teacher’s aide to find another home for him. Soon after, a local couple became interested in adopting Carlos.
A notice was sent to the detention center where Ms. Romero was being held, but her lack of English literacy delayed her response to the Court. With the help of other inmates and guards at the center, she was able to send Judge David C. Dally of Circuit Court in Jasper County a letter clearly indicating that she whole-heartedly opposed the adoption and did not want to give up rights to her son. Unfortunately, Judge Dally terminated these rights a year and a half after Ms. Romero was captured in the processing plant on the grounds of abandonment. Today, she is still fighting a custody battle to win back her son.
A rather disturbing truth is that her story is progressively becoming more common amongst other immigrants in the country. Christopher Huck, an immigration attorney, said it best when he stated that “the struggle in these cases is there’s no winner.” It’s hard to disagree with him, even though it is clear that children need to be returned to their biological parents – especially when the parents never consented to giving the children up. Many argue that courts should pursue working internationally to find relatives in other countries before resorting to a more convenient placement in a local American home.
The pressing legal issues that should be reviewed before our community can fully address this growing societal problem includes assessing the criminality associated with using false identification and the deportation of those with children born in the United States. The latter should include a provision for unifying families separated by deportation.