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Abused and Trafficked Women Losing Children Under Immigration Regime (Video)

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In May, 30-year-old Paula was one of almost 1,000 detainees held at the time inside the Willacy Detention Center, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. For more than a dozen years, Paula lived with a man 20 years her senior who she says brought her to the U.S. after he met her in Mexico. The man presented himself to the outside world as her partner, but behaved more like her owner, keeping her on a short leash and forcing her to work without pay cleaning the homes of his family and contacts. He forbade her from having contact with her family in Mexico and she has not spoken with them for more than a decade. An attorney who represents her says she is a victim of human trafficking.

She had seven children with him since she came to the U.S. One of her daughters was very ill and at intervals required a machine to breath. Paula tearfully recalled the night that, while the man slept, she piled her children into his vehicle and drove away. Because of the hasty escape, Paula could not take her daughter’s breathing machine.

The next day, knowing that her girl could not survive without this machine, she drove to the closest CPS office and made the decision to voluntarily place her daughter in foster care until she could arrange to get the breathing machine or a buy a new one. She took her other children to a domestic violence shelter. But several months later, a sheriff’s deputy arrived and arrested Paula, charging her with neglect because she’d failed to provide her ill child with necessary care. She was brought to the local jail and the rest of her children were placed in foster care.

Rather than being released on bond or spending a short time in jail, Paula was soon moved to Willacy Detention Centre. When ARC interviewed her, she had already been at Willacy for seven months, with no word of when she might be released or deported. Victims of trafficking may be at particular risk of having their children placed in foster care if they are detained. As an attorney familiar with the case explained:

“Trafficking victims are by definition isolated. They have no support network at all. A lot of immigrants have extended networks, but trafficking victims don’t. Because of that, there’s nobody to take the kids to.”

Writing for Colorlines, ARC President Rinku Sen noted that:

“Mothers, in particular, are faced with impossible choices in this set up. We recorded stories of domestic violence victims who are supposed to be protected from deportation under the Violence Against Women Act. Instead, these women are arrested along with their abusers, thrown in detention, and then deported while their kids went into the system. If you’re such a woman and you report the abuse, you might be deported, since some law enforcement clearly didn’t get the VAWA memo. Or if you decide not to report because you wonder who will take care of your kids if you’re deported, then you can be charged with failure to protect the kids from an abuser. There’s no choice there, just a bunch of bad options that all separate you from your kids.”

To date, there has been no national data available on the numbers of children impacted by the intersection of immigration enforcement and child welfare systems.

Related stories:
Trafficking Victim or Criminal? Depends on Your Age

Why Is a News Story Needed to Get an Immigrant Entrepreneur a Visa?

Sexual Abuse of US Refugee Detainees Pervasive

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91 comments

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3:59AM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

sad for the kids as usual

5:30AM PDT on Mar 21, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

3:46PM PDT on Aug 28, 2012

Thank you.

3:45PM PDT on Aug 28, 2012

Thank you.

11:40AM PST on Feb 16, 2012

I have news for the advocates. They treat American children the same way if their parents are having hard financially difficulties. In many states they have a 6 month rule, they have your kids for 6 months they become available for adoption and the parents have little hope of getting them back. Some judges and lawyers benefit financially from fees to broker adoptions. The entire Child Protection system or Child Welfare system as called in some states is rigged to traffic children among foster families most of whom do it for money. The system is concerned more about justifying its annual budget so they go after easy cooperative parents who will do what they are told to insure the safety of their children. Some are told that if they do not cooperate and agree in front of a judge to charges they will never see their children again.

So of course the undocumented mother issue is perfect to fit in with their already corrupt system. There are few agencies that I feel need a total redo [most just need better management] but CPS is one of my exceptions. Also some judges who cooperate with this system later run for political offices, so if you can you should know who they are.

1:12PM PST on Nov 19, 2011

pure evil

10:34PM PST on Nov 11, 2011

so, let me get this straight: some guy drags a girl into the states and then uses her as a domestic slave. she has 7 kids, one of them ill. he's abusive and she runs off without the inhaler [?] but ends up giving the daughter to fostercare, realizing that she can't provide for her herself.

then she'd jailed for lack of care and gets deported without her kids. and a whole lot of people here are saying that's just a ok, you have enough immigrants already...

would these people perhaps have no kids? or been left orphans? never had any hardships? never gone hungry - homeless - cold - lost?

yes, i realize your immigration problem is Huge, but why penalize women who did not want to be a part of the problem in the first place?





3:46AM PST on Nov 10, 2011

Thanks for the article.

10:10PM PST on Nov 9, 2011

OK, I apologize. Substitute guy in wheelchair learning computers, or African American woman. Poor idea in middle of the night.

1:44PM PST on Nov 9, 2011

because we don't have enough kids in foster care and with broken families. lets make some more.
this is just wrong, children should neve be kept from parents who love and can take care of them.

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