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In August, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a long awaited and critical Directive on “Facilitating Parental Interests in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Activities.” The Women’s Refugee Commission, immigrant rights, and child welfare groups across the country reacted with cautious optimism that the directive will provide some measure of comfort to the thousands of parents who could face permanent separation from their children because their family is caught between the immigration and children welfare systems.

More recently, ICE developed a Parental Interests Directive Fact Sheet in English and Spanish, which provides a concise overview of the Directive’s major provisions, as well as a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) posted on the ICE website that address a broad range of parental interests issues. Both of these resources and more are posted at ICE's ERO Community Outreach page.

Coinciding with the release of ICE’s Parental Interests Directive, the Women's Refugee Commission released a two-page guide for detained and deported parents with child custody concerns. This guide, which ICE will make available in all immigration detention facilities housing adults for more than 72 hours, provides parents with steps they can take to protect their parental rights; information on family court proceedings, parent-child visitation, and coordinating care of children; as well as helpful ICE resources for detainees.



The release of the two-page guide precedes the publication of the Women’s Refugee Commission’s larger toolkit for immigrant parents, which will provide detailed information on how to maintain their parental rights and better understand and navigate the child welfare system.


Family Separation and Parental Rights

Encarnación Bail Romero, an undocumented woman from Guatemala and mother of Carlos, a six-month-old U.S. citizen, as detained in May 2007 when immigration agents raided a poultry processing plant in Missouri. Ms. Bail Romero was detained, even though she had a very young child, because immigration authorities alleged she had used false identification. The authorities charged her with identity theft—a charge that has since been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. When Ms. Bail Romero was first detained, her son, Carlos, was six months old. Carlos is a U.S. citizen and while his mother was in detention, he was adopted, against his mother's will, by a local couple. 

The Missouri Supreme Court reversed the termination of Ms. Bail Romero’s parental rights and the adoption decision, but the Court was unable to reunite Ms. Bail Romero with her son because procedural errors in the family court required the case to be tried again. In July 2012, the lower court released its decision, ruling against Ms. Bail Romero and reaffirming the termination of her parental rights. 

Our Work

The Migrant Rights and Justice Program works to protect the rights of families impacted by immigration enforcement. We focus in particular on the thousands of undocumented, immigrant women whose parental rights are violated, and sometimes terminated, when they are detained or deported.

We work to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security institutionalizes and enforces sufficient protections to keep families together. We also advocate for policies and procedures that guarantee child welfare practices do not discriminate against parents on the basis of their immigration status or cultural background.

Read a moving letter from a child of a detainee currently in foster care.

*Names have been changed to protect women and children