An immigrant deported to Mexico who is fighting to keep custody of his three children received permission to return to the United States to continue his court battle in North Carolina.
Since ICE, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, is not generally known for its humanitarian actions, this is great news.
Felipe Bautista Montes was granted temporary permission to enter the U.S. so that he can attend a court hearing regarding his parental rights and the custody of his three young children.
Montes was deported from his North Carolina home nearly two years ago, following repeated stops for driving without a license. When he went to court to pay his fines, two ICE agents were waiting for him. They handcuffed him and transferred him to a detention center in Georgia, from where he was deported to Mexico on December 3, 2010, as his wife, a U.S. citizen, was expecting the couple’s third child.
Soon after Felipe’s deportation, Marie Montes lost custody of their children due to economic difficulties and a decline in her health. The state Division of Social Services placed the kids with foster families who are now seeking to adopt them.
Montes’s situation is not an isolated case, according to the Applied Research report “Shattered Families,” which shows that more than 5,000 children of deported or detained immigrant parents are currently in foster homes.
Following national and international media attention, the Mexican Consulate in North Carolina hired a private law firm to apply to ICE for what’s called Humanitarian Parole, or permission to enter the United States.
It worked! Last week, the Mr. Montes received a call telling him that he’d been granted permission to attend his custody hearing, and yesterday he walked out of the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, and made his way to Sparta. That’s the town where he lived for nearly a decade with his wife, where his kids were born, and where the children now live in foster homes.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” Montes told Colorlines.com yesterday, shortly after his arrival in the U.S. “I didn’t really believe it until I got here.” Montes, who has been forced by ICE to wear an electronic ankle bracelet that tracks his movement, is required at intervals to check in with an ICE official in North Carolina.
ICE has rarely granted a permission like this one. A spokesperson wrote in an email to Colorlines.com, “Under the authority of the Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, ICE provides temporary parole on rare occasions involving urgent humanitarian or public interest needs. Each circumstance is considered on a case-by-case basis.”
“This is the first time in my 11 years here that we’ve been successful in bringing someone back on humanitarian parole through the same agency that deported them,” said Carlos Flores, the consul general of the Mexican Consulate for the Carolinas. “We’ve gotten people here for short periods who just need to come into the country, but never someone who’s been deported.”
Montes does not know when he will be allowed to see his children. For now, he waits for his hearing on August 10. “I want to make sure I do everything right here. My babies are the most important thing to me,” he tells Colorlines.
Children need all the love and support they can get to grow up in this world; it sounds like the Montes extended family in Mexico is ready to embrace and welcome these youngsters, and dad is obviously willing to fight hard for his children.
We wish him the very best.
Photo Credit: thinkstock
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