February 14, 2012 (New York, NY) – An action launched on Valentine’s Day 2012 by Presente.org and the Applied Research Center is rallying public support to save a family scheduled from torn apart by the Department of Social Services in Allegheny County, NC. Felipe’s family is emblematic of thousands of families devasted by immigration enforcement and child welfare systems that collide and greatly increase the chance that children will never see their families again.
On February 21, Felipe Montes, husband to a US Citizen and father to three US Citizen children, will have his parental rights stripped away in court due to his deportation. The petition to save this family is available at presente.org/felipeschildren.
The petition will flood the North Carolina Division of Social Services with thousands of emails and hundreds of calls, and possibly compel a delivery action next week.
More than 46,000 cases involving mothers and fathers that were deported away from their U.S.-citizen children in the first six months of 2011 alone. An undocumented immigrant, Felipe is a devoted father and was breadwinner for his family. He resided for many years in the United States and has unwavering support of his longtime employer. The February 21 hearing is a pivotal moment in the lives of these three children, and possibly the final opportunity to reunify them with their father.
"The day of my detention was the saddest day of my life,” said Felipe. “I took my kids to daycare at 8 in the morning. I woke them up like always. I changed them. I fixed some things for them to take to daycare. I got detained, and they took me to another state. Without being able to say anything to my wife. Without seeing my children even one more time." Felipe was deported as a result of driving without a license and insurance.
Presente.org’s petition calls on the Allegheny County Department of Social Services to ensure that Felipe’s family is not permanently separated, but rather that they be reunified in the United States or Mexico: presente.org/felipeschildren.
“As if it isn't enough that Latinos have to deal with the devastation of the broken federal immigration system, we also have to deal with child welfare departments that are ruthlessly destroying families and traumatizing children,” said Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org. “Felipe Montes should be united with his three U.S. citizen children, immediately, and steps should be taken to make sure thousands more children aren’t legally separated from their parents forever.”
According to the Applied Research Center’s recent “Shattered Families” report, more than 5,000 children around the country currently in foster care have parents who have detained or deported. North Carolina was one of the key states ARC focused on in researching “Shattered Families.” Interviews and surveys with child welfare caseworkers and attorneys in a handful of NC jurisdictions found a growing number of children in foster care have detained or deported parents. Petition signers are also calling on the North Carolina Division of Social Services to develop clear policies to ensure that families separated by a parent’s deportation are quickly reunified.
“The heartbreaking experience of the Montes family reminds us that our immigration policies affect the lives of real families,” said Rinku Sen, president of the Applied Research Center. “They need action now, at every level of the system.”
The Applied Research Center’s report on the perilous intersection of immigration enforcement and parental rights has been featured on ABC News & World Report, ABC Nightline, MSNBC Rachel Maddow, dozens of other media outlets, and the issue commented on by President Obama and Newt Gingrich. Unfortunately, there has been little movement to reform the immigration and child welfare systems. In the meantime, thousands of families are being torn apart.
Child welfare departments must be prepared to ensure these families are treated fairly. A border should never speak louder than a parent’s love. On February 21, there is an opportunity to reunify Felipe and his family, and hopefully spark broader systemic changes, as outlined in the recommendations of the Applied Research Center’s “Shattered Families” report, available at arc.org/shatteredfamilies.
For information on the campaign, or to interview Presente.org Executive Director Arturo Carmona contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 832-315-5953. For more information on Felipe’s case, ARC’s “Shattered Families” report, or to interview ARC President Rinku Sen, contact email@example.com or 646-490-2772.
ABOUT PRESENTE.ORG: With more than a quarter million members, Presente is a major national organization dedicated to amplifying the political voices of Latino communities in the United States. Presente.org has led campaigns around various national issues, including the removal of Lou Dobbs from CNN, the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and the Trail of DREAMs campaign.
ABOUT ARC – The Applied Research Center (ARC) is a 30-year-old racial justice think tank that uses media, research and activism to promote solutions. ARC’s mission is to popularize racial justice and prepare people to achieve it. ARC also publishes Colorlines.com. For more information on ARC’s work, visit http://arc.org/.