Recommendations for Undocumented Immigrants with U.S. Citizen Children
1. Create a plan.
If you were deported today, what do you want to do with your children? Do you wish to take them with you to your home country? Do you wish for them to stay in the United States? Do you want to settle in your home country then bring them with you?
2. Want your children to remain in the U.S.A?
If your child is a U.S. Citizen and you would like them to remain in the U.S.A. if you are deported, you will need to take steps to help that happen. We recommend you designate someone who has legal status as a guardian for your children. Legal guardianships are not advisable while you are in the country with your children and are able to take care of them, however we do recommend creating Special Power of Attorney documentation which allows DHS, DHHS, ICE and other government agencies to clearly see your wishes in a legal document.
We have been in discussions with the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Resources and they have confirmed that a Special Power of Attorney is helpful in placing your children with people you trust, and not into the unknown of the foster system. Depending on the circumstance of a deportation, your child may be placed in DHS custody first, but a document which expresses your wishes for your child’s care will hold a lot of weight in establishing a legal guardianship once you are no longer in the country.
Contact our office today at (479) 442-5577 to set up an appointment to create a Special Power of Attorney.
3. How Do I Choose a Guardian?
We recommend choosing someone who has legal status in the United States. Whether this be a U.S. Citizen, a permanent resident, or other legal status, you need someone who can continue to take care of your children without another threat of deportation. We also recommend choosing someone who is well known to your children. If you are deported, your children may be confused, angry, depressed, and feel lost without you. If they are able to live with someone whom there are familiar with, this will help the separation anxiety they may be facing.
Additionally, DHHS will ask these questions of your guardian:
a) Have you ever been convicted of a felony?
b) Have you ever been charged or convicted of any drug crimes?
c) Have you ever been charged or convicted of any child maltreatment crimes?
d) Have you ever been investigated by DHS or DHHS?
e) Have you ever had a true finding of child maltreatment from DHS/DHHS?
If your guardian answers yes to any of the questions above, you may wish to find a different guardian. A conviction will definitely disqualify them from taking on custody of your children. A charge may disqualify them. If you have any concerns, speak to an attorney further about this.
4. Prepare for the Minor Child’s Travel
While we sincerely hope you are never deported, it is best to prepare now. We strongly recommend applying for your children’s U.S. passports now. The U.S. Post Office has strict requirements for identifying parents for minors who have never applied for a passport, and they must be applied for in person at the Post Office. If you are deported, the only way your children may be able to see you is if they travel to you. You can find the application papers for a passport here: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/under-16.html or most U.S. Post Office locations have a passport office with paper copies available. You can find your closest location here https://tools.usps.com/go/POLocatorAction!input.action
5. Secure Your Assets
Another important consideration is what happens to your property in the United States. In some cases, you may have time before a deportation to close accounts, sell vehicles, pack clothes, but it is possible you may not have time. We recommend creating a Special Power of Attorney which gives someone legal authority over your property in the United States. If you have children, this can be part of the one you do for your children – using the same guardian, or naming a different person.
Call our office today at (479) 442-5577 to set up an appointment to create this legal document.
6. Create Ways to Contact You
Particularly if you have children, you will need to have an international means of contacting your children – or allowing DHS to contact you. You may not have your U.S. cell phone with you, or be allowed to take it, so we recommend creating alternate ways to contact you. Email addresses are an easy way to create a means of contact which can be used anywhere in the world with internet connection. That way you and your family can exchange local phone numbers once you reach your destination using email. Skype accounts and What’s App or other similar means are also suggested. You want to be able to create something which will be accessible in your home country. Make sure your family and friends have this contact information now – before anything happens.
7. Engage in Your Community
Finally, we recommend that you stay informed about what is going on in your area. If you hear that Immigration & Custom Enforcement Agents (ICE) are detaining people, be careful where you go and prepare your children for the possibility of your detention occurring soon. If ICE Agents come to your door, do not let them in unless they have a warrant signed by a Judge. If you are taken into custody, do not sign any documentation without a lawyer looking over it first, or you may be signing away your rights to a fair process of deportation and will be deported immediately. You have a right to request your lawyer be present when any legal documents are present, and we recommend you use this right.
You can call us on (479) 442-5577 for legal services if you or a family member is taken into custody.