What Should Happen To Immigrant Children In The US?

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(Newswire.net — February 14, 2017) — With the Trump administration ramping up, to take control, many immigrants are worried about what the change will mean for their immigration status. Mass deportation has been discussed, leaving many who are here illegally worried about their future once Trump takes the oath of office.

Those who are most vulnerable are the children who have crossed the border not of their own accord, but with a parent or without one. There are millions of children in America who  face the potential of being sent back to their country of origin, some not even knowing their native language.

The most complex issue is what to do with children who are in the foster care system, or those who have been abandoned or taken by the state due to neglect or abuse. There is a great debate brewing about the possibility of a child who is abandoned or abused being allowed to apply for permanent legal status to stay in America – or whether the children should become the problem of their native country’s government.

Until now in Massachusetts, if a child was deported alone or their parents abandoned them, they were allowed to remain with a state-appointed guardian and apply for permanent status. Two cases before the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts will determine what will happen to immigrant children who are without parents.

The state courts are being asked to decide about immigration status for non-citizens, but at the heart of the debate is the welfare of the children without protection. Many legal representatives believe that immigration isn’t a factor when you are considering the best interests and safety of a child. If a child is deported, there are no assurances that their native government will secure their safety. Many believe that deportation should not be an option.

Federal law currently grants a child, legal status when that child is determined to be dependent on the state. If reuniting a child with their parents is not a possibility because of  abuse or abandonment, then it is presumed that returning a child is not in the best interest of their safety. The SJC rulings will answer the question once and for all of what legally should be done with children who aren’t American citizens, but who have been displaced in America without shelter or a guardian.

One of the cases involves a Guatemalan girl who was abandoned by her father.  On behalf of the girl’s mother, the state has asked that she be granted legal status to stay permanently due to the fact that her father abandoned her. The state will argue that the girl will be better cared for by her mother in the US, than to be returned to an extended family in Guatemala. Furthermore, if she was returned to Guatemala, the mother insists that the relatives she would return to, have a history of abuse and neglect.

At issue is whether a juvenile has to be abandoned by both parents to obtain permanent residency, or if it can be done with just the abandonment of one parent. The second case involves a girl who is seventeen years old and a native of El Salvador. The state is arguing that her mother could not protect her from the threat of street gangs where she lives. With that point lost the argument shifts to the fact, that her father abandoned her before she was born, which again leads to the question of whether it takes one or both parents abandoning a child before they are granted permanent residency.

Advocacy groups as well as a family law attorney Reading PA and in the rest of the United States, stand in direct opposition to returning any minor to their country of origin if they are abandoned, abused or neglected by either one or both parents. The problem is that the U.S. Department of Justice believes that the state should not be determining immigration status at all. Immigration law is ruled upon at a federal level. It is not a state’s rights issue. Therefore, no matter what the SJC decides, it can likely be overridden by federal law.  

To date, statistics show that as many as 59000 children came to America unaccompanied by an adult. Many believe that granting former cases, permanent residency will increase the likelihood that many more immigrant children will come over the border being smuggled in for the chance of a better life. That will put more children at danger being put into the hands of smugglers who aren’t concerned for their welfare.

No matter what the SJC decides, there will likely be a larger battle ahead if there is a disagreement between the state and federal courts. Over the next several years, immigration law will probably go through many changes as America decides where the borders end and how to deal with those who break immigration laws.