Last week, our publisher the Applied Research Center launched a campaign with Presente.org to reunite Felipe Montes with his three sons. Felipe, 31, has been a devoted father who’s done everything to give his kids the best life possible — but, after dropping his kids off at day care one morning on his way to work, he was picked up by ICE, detained, transferred, and deported to Mexico, all with extremely limited contact with his family.

Because Felipe’s wife wasn’t able to support the kids herself, the Allegheny County Department of Social Services took the kids away into foster care, eventually terminating her parental rights. Now, they want to terminate Felipe’s rights as well — and their reasons don’t amount to much more than that he lives in Mexico. This goes directly counter to the department’s mission statement of reunited kids with their birth parents whenever possible, and it also goes against established research that children in nearly all cases are best off with their birth parents.

As Seth Freed Wessler, author of ARC’s Shattered Families report, wrote for us on Tuesday:

Montes said he was removed “without being able to say anything to my wife. Without seeing my children even one more time… My wife was left completely alone and pregnant.”

ICE additionally claims that it is not to blame for the kind of separation that the three Montes children and thousands of other children face, saying in a statement responding to the findings of our investigation that child welfare departments “independently remove children from a home when there are concerns for the child’s safety and care.”

Montes’s story and those of hundreds of other families cast a different picture. His children were removed from Marie’s care following debilitating health issues and her economic decline—she could not afford to pay for heating and electric for their home and, she says, the child welfare department refused to assist her in payments. But Montes’s lawyer and his wife are clear that the children would never have been taken if he had not been deported and thus had been around to care for the children.

Now, ICE has done its damage and responsibility lies with the child welfare department to keep the Montes family together. Allegheny County has already convinced a judge to end reunification efforts with Marie. Now, she wants the children to be placed with their father.

With the help of the Mexican Consulate in North Carolina, Montes’s kids could be flown to Mexico. But the child welfare department has decided to ask a judge to terminate his parental rights.

According to the Montes family’s lawyer, the court has post-poned Felipe’s hearing after the case drew public attention—meaning, after folks like our readers spoke up. You can help Felipe and his family by continuing to speak up and signing Presente.org’s petition to Allegheny County officials, and including a personal message. It really does make a difference.

Here’s what you had to say about Felipe’s case.

caroaber:

This story deserves more attention. I hope the national media focuses on this outrage. There is a double standard here being argued by the state: a natural parent is almost always the best choice to raise his/her own flesh and blood EXCEPT if that parent is illegally in the country. Why such an odd exception to the rule?

An earlier poster alluded to the late 1999 saga of the Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez, who was rescued at sea when he and his mother sought refuge in the U.S. The loudest voices in that debate were insisting that the boy not be returned to his natural father. That was wrong, and so is this.

Justin Feldman:

“[L]aw and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” - MLK

To a commenter saying that people who “break the rules” get what they deserve, here’s parkwood1920:

What rules? You mean the predatory policies that require immigrants to pay THOUSANDS of dollars for a government residency application? Or do you mean the rules against undocumented folk having drivers’ licenses, which Montes broke so he could get to work to support his kids? What rules are you so concerned with?

And smintheus:

What rules did the children break?

Peter4011:

I wonder how many “family values voters” are among the commenters saying “tough - rip the family apart - he broke the law.”

ggm281:

I’m sorry. I strongly believe in immigration enforcement, and have no problem with the deportation of this man. However, he should not lose his kids to adoption because of unpaid traffic tickets, effectively. For god’s sake, we let people who are arrested for child abuse retain custody of their children. This man should be allowed to come to the US to pick up his children and move them back with him to Mexico. The state should provide each of them with a birth certificate so that they can legally return when they turn 18. It is unconscionable that we are so egotistical to think that being “American” is so superior that it would be similar to child abuse to allow these children to be raised in Mexico.

36stmexican:

Kids raised in Mexico come here with beautiful manners, knowing how to cooperate with others, with deep regard for the feelings of others. Kids raised in foster care many times have terrible trauma and no longer have any regard for others or even respect or care for themselves. So it would be better to be raised in state care than with your father and many relatives who drink water trucked in? Having a flush toilet is better than having a loving, stable Mexican family?

Jorge Bautista:

There is nothing that can substitute parenthood. No matter where you are living — It’s not the country, it’s the love and support of your original parents.


Each week, we round up the best comments in our community. Join the conversation here on Colorlines.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Read this online at http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/02/have_you_fought_to_help_felipe_reunite_with_his_kids_reader_forum.html


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