What about my children? What to do if you can’t be with them
June 12, 2014
We’ve made great strides in finalizing the toolkit for immigrant parents detained in the United States on how to protect their right to keep custody of and reunify with their children. Your support covered the cost of designing the toolkit in both English and Spanish languages. It is in the process of being printed and will be distributed to immigration facilities in the US. The legal counsel for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reviewed and approved the tool kit. An electronic version has been sent to all ICE detention facilities, which have been instructed to make the toolkit available to all detainees by the end of June 2014. The official sanctioning of inclusion of the toolkit in detention centers is a significant accomplishment. The official release of the toolkit will be in the next month in Washington, DC. The toolkit will be available in print, an interactive electronic version, and will be posted on our website.
Risks and challenges
It has been a long, and at times challenging, process. As expected, we had to make several last minute edits to accommodate changes in U.S. policy. The experience of including complex immigration and child welfare policies into a user-friendly guide that applies across all 50 states was eye-opening. The process reinforced the difficulties that detained and deported parents face as they try to maintain custody of their children.
After three years, we are excited that this resource will soon be in the hands of mothers and fathers who need it. It is inspiring to see public and private institutions like the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) and ICE work together to ensure that immigration laws are enforced in a humane manner that respects migrants' human and due process rights. The tremendous support this project received is humbling - you have truly made a difference in the lives of immigrant families. Thank you!
We will be officially launching our toolkit on June 24 in Washington, DC! If you’re able to join us, we would love to have you there. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on our invitation list.
Amount spent so far
Print 300 copies of the guide
The WRC’s Migrant Rights and Justice program has been working to ensure the rights and protection of vulnerable migrants for almost 20 years. Our current immigration system is broken. It tears thousands of families apart every year; fails to protect unaccompanied children; and fails to recognize the contributions and protection needs of immigrant women. For a complete list of our reports and for articles we are quoted in, click here. Watch our video: Looking for a second chance: A family torn apart by immigration enforcement.
Help immigrant moms who are in immigration custody or have been deported arrange for the care and custody of their children.
Why we care: No mother should lose her children because of her immigration status, but thousands of immigrant women in the United States yearly are detained and deported and their children left behind.
How we’re solving the problem: Developing a guide that will provide thousands of detained and deported immigrant and undocumented mothers and fathers with crucial information they need to protect and maintain parental rights and make well-informed, critical decisions regarding the care and welfare of their children.
Miguel was seven years old, a pupil at an elementary school in Minnesota. One day in 2006, Miguel, who is a U.S. citizen, returned home from second grade to find that his mother and father were not there and that his two-year-old brother was left alone. Miguel had no idea that his parents had been detained by immigration authorities, while he was at school. He stayed home alone, caring for his baby brother for a week until his grandmother came to look after for them. When Miguel returned to school, his teacher reported that this previously “happy little boy” had become “absolutely catatonic.” His performance slipped and his grades plummeted. But in a sense, Miguel and his brother were lucky; they were able to contact their grandmother, who came to care for them.
Many children of detained and deported immigrants end up in foster care and lose all contact with their biological parents, not because their parents don’t want to be reunited with their children, but because they don’t know how to find them or are not able to participate in the processes necessary to get them back. Approximately 5.5 million children in the United States have at least one noncitizen undocumented parent. Some 4.5 million of these children are U.S. citizens.
They may be fostered by strangers or even adopted without their parents’ knowledge. Parents who are detained are not guaranteed an opportunity to make care arrangements for their children, and they often have no idea what their rights are, or what they can do to protect them if their children are placed into the foster care system.
The Women's Refugee Commission’s Migrant Rights and Justice program has brought the plight of separated families to the attention of the U.S. government, accomplishing policy changes to prevent unnecessary separation and trauma to migrant women and children and protecting their human right to keep their families together.
Unfortunately, there are still thousands of families without the information necessary to protect their rights.
This project will help the Women’s Refugee Commission design and print a guide—in English and Spanish—that will provide thousands of detained and deported parents with crucial information they need to protect and maintain their parental rights and make well-informed, critical decisions regarding the care and welfare of their children.
The guide will include information on how to get a lawyer, how to stay in touch with children, and how to participate in family court or child welfare hearings. The guide will be distributed to hundreds of detention facilities, community organizations and social service providers around the United States, with the goal of providing parents with step-by-step information, advice and resources on how to protect their parental rights and maintain custody of their children.
In addition, the guide will provide officials, attorneys, service providers and family members who work with detained parents and their children with critical information to ensure that family unity and children’s best interests are taken into consideration in immigration decisions.