Holes in immigration laws are allowing state court judges to grant custody of migrant children to American families without notifying their deported parents, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
The AP scoured hundreds of court documents and immigration records to reveal several cases of children being permanently, legally taken from their families after initial separations.
The report focuses on the case of Alexa Ramos, who was separated from her mother, Araceli, for 15 months, to explain issues of the legal standing for children placed under the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Araceli Ramos and her daughter fled from El Salvador to the U.S. to escape from the children’s abusive father and were arrested upon crossing into the country by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Normally, running from abuse mean that Ramos would be granted asylum, but she was denied because of criminal charges against her.
After months of Ramos being in detention and Alexa being in foster care, the mother was deported after being unable to get a lawyer to defend her asylum request. She says she was forced by an agent to sign a waiver to leave her daughter behind.
Legally, when a parent is deported without their child, that child is not supposed to be allowed to be permanently adopted.
“And the reality is that for every parent who is not located, there will be a permanent orphaned child,” U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said in August.
However, the foster family that Alexa was placed into by Bethany Christian Services, allegedly ignored repeated requests from a variety of institutions, including from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to return her to Araceli.
When officially ordered to return Alexa to her mother in December of 2016, the foster parents, Sherri and Kory Barr, sued claiming that she would be abused if returned home. A Michigan judge granted them guardianship.
BY CHRIS MILLS RODRIGO for THE HILL
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