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Guardianship plan may be needed for undocumented immigrants

New immigration policies heightening the detention of undocumented immigrants can lead to a new problem: caring for the children of those detained. With more than 5 million children of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., the problem could worsen in the coming years. For undocumented persons in the Florida area and elsewhere, some preventive measures may be in order.

One case illustrates the tragedy that can ensue after detention. Several years ago, an undocumented woman in Nebraska was arrested and detained. At the time, she was caring for an infant daughter and 7-year-old son. After a month in detention, she was deported back to Guatemala. The problem was that her children remained in the U.S. as wards of the State of Nebraska. She was not allowed to see her children before deportation.

Her deportation and the removal of her children created a long legal battle to regain custody. She did not see her children for five years. By then, her daughter was nearing school age, and her son was approaching his teen years.

Her case is not an isolated incident. As late as 2011, there were estimated to be 5,000 children in state custody while their parents were in detention or deported. With the statements of the current administration being tough on undocumented immigrants, this number may rise exponentially. Family law experts have often pointed to the difficulty and complexity of reintegration of a child with parents when the child was removed from the family. Adding an immigration law issue adds another layer of complexity.

For this reason, immigration detention law experts are advocating that undocumented immigrants develop and execute a guardianship plan for minor children. The guardianship plan, if properly documented and executed, would provide assurance that the child remains in a safe environment in the event of detention.