Family Separation and Parental Rights
Encarnación Bail Romero, an undocumented woman from Guatemala and mother of Carlos, a six-month-old U.S. citizen, as detained in May 2007 when immigration agents raided a poultry processing plant in Missouri. Ms. Bail Romero was detained, even though she had a very young child, because immigration authorities alleged she had used false identification. The authorities charged her with identity theft—a charge that has since been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. When Ms. Bail Romero was first detained, her son, Carlos, was six months old. Carlos is a U.S. citizen and while his mother was in detention, he was adopted, against his mother's will, by a local couple.
The Missouri Supreme Court reversed the termination of Ms. Bail Romero’s parental rights and the adoption decision, but the Court was unable to reunite Ms. Bail Romero with her son because procedural errors in the family court required the case to be tried again. In July 2012, the lower court released its decision, ruling against Ms. Bail Romero and reaffirming the termination of her parental rights.
The Migrant Rights and Justice Program works to protect the rights of families impacted by immigration enforcement. We focus in particular on the thousands of undocumented, immigrant women whose parental rights are violated, and sometimes terminated, when they are detained or deported.
We work to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security institutionalizes and enforces sufficient protections to keep families together. We also advocate for policies and procedures that guarantee child welfare practices do not discriminate against parents on the basis of their immigration status or cultural background.
Read a moving from a child of a detainee currently in foster care.
*Names have been changed to protect women and children