Last week we finished Part 1 of “Limbo” with the promise that there is always something one can do when faced with removal proceedings (aka deportations). With news and rumors of raids sweeping through farmworker communities, we know how frightened people are right now. Many are taking action – here is what we can do.
According to Vice.com, many immigrant families “are now making contingency plans – like a will, but for immigrants – to map out what will happen to their [lives] in the United States if they’re deported.” These continency plans range from simple to extremely complicated – involving notaries, attorneys, and the works. What is most important is to have a plan for 1) your assets, and 2) your dependents.
Some farmworker parents, facing the real possibility of separation, are arranging dual citizenship for their kids so that, as CNN reports, “the consulate [can] work with local authorities to get the family reunited.” It is a prevalent misconception that minors of foreign nationals cannot travel to join their parents wherever they’ve been deported: this is not true. Even so, CNN says that arranging for dual citizenship could make that process easier and less stressful.
Some farmworkers choose to set up power of attorney that enables someone else to carry out their financial and business affairs in their absence. Others modify legal documents, like birth certificates, so that a spouse or other relative with U.S. citizenship will have custody of their kids in the event of their deportation. This is to prevent scenarios like that of Encarnación Bail Romero, whose son was adopted by an American couple against her will while she was in removal proceedings. Understandably, this alone can be daunting thanks to the paperwork involved, but it’s probably the most important step towards protecting one’s family from the threat of separation.
If a farmworker child is in the scary situation of having his or her parent detained without knowing where they’ve been taken, the Online Detainee Locator System can give clues to their whereabouts. Immigrationdetention.org provides tips on using that system. However, it will not help parents searching for their children, as US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not allow searches for minors.
There are a multitude of other precautions one can take. Lawyers.com recommends that parents keep key information accessible to a close family member: bank account, routing number, employer’s contact information, and the phone number of a family attorney. If a farmworker child has special needs, a parent might consider keeping an ample supply of the necessary medications on hand as well.
The good news is, even once an undocumented farmworker receives papers or removal orders, there are still more steps that can be taken. Above all, many organizations strongly recommend that people get legal help. Depending on where a farmworker is located, there may be affordable or even free options. Prior to hiring a lawyer, Lawyers.com suggests asking how many appeals he or she has handled and to what degree of success. Immi.org strongly recommends that undocumented immigrants go to all of their court hearings. If one is missed, the judge can order their deportation in absentia. To that end, one should inform the court of any change in address.
Once ordered for deportation, The FitzGerald Law Company suggests in their Cancellation of Removal and Deportation FAQs that an immigrant can either “apply in the court that issued the order of deportation, for the court to vacate or cancel the order of deportation; or apply with the Immigration Service to waive or cancel [one’s] former order of deportation.” Attorney Charles Medina says that a deportation order is sometimes never carried out, in which case the immigrant could have better options in attaining legal status later on.
All in all, one should always prepare for the worst, but aim for the best – easier said than done! But AFOP is here to help, in a number of ways. First, AFOP advocates for immigration reform in so that immigrants can retain their legal status, families can stay together, and healthy systems can be created to protect both employer and employee. AFOP Health & Safety provides critical resources to farmworker families that keep them well during uncertain times. Finally, our Children in the Fields Campaign advocates for fairer laws to prevent the exploitation of farmworker children, and provides them national exposure in our Essay and Art Contest – raising their rights to the public eye.
These can be frightening times, but take smart precautions. Worrying beyond our control wears us down, and compounds problems by leaving us open to further health problems. Instead, let’s continue to lead healthy lives by making the conscious decision not to live in fear.