Felipe Montes, a deported father who federal immigration authorities allowed to return to the United States in August so that he could fight for his parental rights, has been granted an extension to his humanitarian parole.
Montes was deported from North Carolina in late 2010 for driving violations and his children were placed in foster care. The Alleghany County child welfare department refused to return the three young boys, now 1, 3 and 4-years-old, to their father’s custody and the family was at the brink of permanent separation. The foster families caring for the children want to adopt the boys.
In February, Colorlines.com broke Felipe Montes’s story and the Latino advocacy group Presente.org launched a petition demanding the family be reunified. Over 20,000 people singed the petition and with the help of the Mexican consulate in Raleigh, NC, Montes applied for permission to return to the United States for his hearings. In August, federal immigration authorities made the rare decision to allow Montes to return to the country for 90 days. The initial parole required that Montes return to Mexico on October 29th.
The father and his court appointed attorney, Donna Shumate, expected the three months would be enough time for the case to conclude, but instead, the hearings have dragged on. Earlier this week, Montes was preparing to leave the United States without his kids.
But on Thursday, Montes’s attorney confirmed that federal authorities will allow him to remain until December 23rd. The next court hearing about his parental rights is scheduled for November 19th.
“I got a chance to get the kids back before I leave,” Montes told Colorlines.com. “I got all the way back here and I didn’t want to have to go to Mexico without them.”
Ann Robertson, an immigration attorney for the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh, NC, petitioned federal authorities for the extension. Earlier this month, Robertson told Colorlines.com she believed it was unlikely Montes would get permission to stay more time. The announcement this week was a welcome surprise.
Since his return to the Sparta, Montes has been allowed to visit with his children. He spends afternoons with them in a playground or at a Burger King in the tiny town of Sparta, NC. It had been nearly two years since he’d seen them. Immediately after he was deported, county officials took Montes’s three children from his wife, Marie Montes. She struggles with mental health and drug abuse issues and earlier this month was sentenced to a five month in jail following parole violations. Rather than reunite the kids with Felipe Montes, the local child welfare department moved them quickly into foster care and then proposed terminating both Marie and Felipe Montes’s parental rights.
Judge Michael Duncan continues to hear arguments over the fate of Montes’s three children.