NC Judge Could Terminate Parental Rights of Deported Worker, Put US-Born Sons Up for Adoption
When immigration agents deported Felipe Montes to Mexico two years ago, his three young sons were left in the care of their mentally ill, American-born mother in a small North Carolina mountain town.
Despite immigration policies that allow for the release of primary caregivers, federal authorities worked swiftly to expel Montes. Within two weeks, social workers placed the boys in foster care.
Child welfare officials are now asking a judge to strip Montes of his parental rights, reasoning it’s better for the children to live with strangers in the country where they were born than with their father in Mexico. Such a ruling could clear the way for their adoption.
That would be unfathomable to Montes, whose only brushes with the law were a string of traffic violations.
“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t use drugs,” said Montes, 32, who crossed the border illegally in 2003 to work on Christmas tree farms. “I have always taken care of my children, I have always loved them. And now, the social services people want to take away my rights and give my children away to strangers.”
Montes’ lawyer says the father is at risk of being deemed an unfit parent solely because of his immigration status.
Three years after Montes came to the U.S., he married a North Carolina native and the couple rented a trailer near Sparta, a town of about 2,000. The marriage made him eligible for legal immigration status, but he didn’t undertake the lengthy, expensive process.
But the agency balked at sending the Montes children to live in Mexico, where Montes works at a walnut farm and shares a house with his uncle, aunt and three nieces.
A home study by Mexican social services authorities shows the Montes family’s cement block house in Mexico has a refrigerator, satellite television, microwave and plenty of space for children to play. There’s a school a few minutes away.
But North Carolina officials are concerned it doesn’t have running water. Officials also said Montes missed some scheduled calls with his children at their day care, or called on the wrong days. Montes has a cell phone, but service can be spotty in rural Mexico.