With just two days left before he is scheduled to board a plane to Mexico, Felipe Montes, who was deported two years ago and returned to the U.S. in August to reclaim his children, is making a last ditch effort to remain in the country. Yesterday, the Latino advocacy group Presente.org launched a petition calling on federal immigration authorities to allow the father to stay in the United States.
“I want to stay here with my kids. They are born here and they are U.S. citizens,” Montes said by phone today. “I will take them to a place they don’t know, they know nothing about and they’ve never been there.”
Montes was deported in December 2010 and his three U.S.-citizen children were placed in foster care in Sparta, N.C., where he’d lived for nearly a decade. After Colorlines.com broke his story in February of last year, Presente launched a petition calling on Alleghany Country to reunite the boys with their father in Mexico. The petition garnered more than 20,000 signatures, but the county still refused to send the boys to Mexico. They remained in the care of local foster families.
In August, under pressure from the Mexican consulate, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials granted Montes a rare humanitarian parole that allowed him to return to the U.S. so that he could attend hearings on his parental rights, which he ultimately won. That parole expires on Saturday and Montes and his boys are expected to return to Mexico. But Montes has long said that outcome is a distant second best to being allowed to stay in the U.S. with his kids and his wife, Marie Montes, who was deemed unfit to care for the children alone because of drug abuse.
In recent months, activist groups, including Presente, have halted a number of deportations by bringing the cases into public view and calling for administrative relief.
By all accounts, Montes would have been eligible for so-called prosecutorial discretion, the case-by-case hold on the deportation of people with strong ties to the U.S. who have not been convicted of crimes. The discretion guidelines were officially rolled out in June 2011, six months after Montes was deported. In the Montes case, the request for relief is unusual in that he has already been deported, and his return to the United States was possible through a separate administrate procedure. But Montes and Presente believe there’s no reason the prosecutorial guidelines should not be applied to the father now.