Deported Parents Fear They Will Lose Custody of Their Children

October 9, 2018, 6:01 PM UTC

A new investigation from the Associated Press found that parents who are being deported might lose custody of their children who remain in the U.S., as many parents who faced deportation proceedings over the summer were coerced into signing paperwork to leave their children behind.

As a result of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, which only lasted from May to June of this year, hundreds of migrant children who were separated from their parents at the border remain in detention, shelters, and foster care. The administration missed multiple family reunification deadlines over the summer. Nearly 3,000 children were separated from their parents before the policy ended.

Araceli Ramos came to the U.S. from El Salvador in 2015 with her 2-year-old daughter, Alexa, because she feared her former partner would kill her. Soon after arriving, a border agent found that she had been charged with a crime in El Salvador. But because she didn’t have a lawyer to plead her asylum case, Ramos was deported and ordered to sign a waiver, leaving Alexa behind. “The agent put his hand on mine, he held my hand, he forced me to sign,” Ramos told the Associated Press.

Though the practice was infrequent before this year, over the summer more than 300 parents were deported, while their children remained in the U.S. in foster care, the Associated Press found.

Despite the administration’s claims that it will continue to reunite families, the Trump administration last month announced plans to expand its child detention facility in Tornillo, Texas, to 3,800 beds. The administration has also proposed regulations that would allow children to be held in detention indefinitely. Nearly 12,800 immigrant children remained in detention last month.

Ramos, who was reunited with her daughter in 2017 after years of being separated and an emotional and long legal battle, continues to advocate for parents finding themselves in a similar situation due to Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy.

“If they give our children up for adoption without our permission, that isn’t justice,” Ramos said, according to the AP. “They are our children, not theirs.”