While the separation of undocumented immigrant parents from their children at the border has received significant media attention, those same immigrant families are still at risk once they settle in the U.S. Families continue to live in fear of deportation and separation. Significantly, the District and several states have legal mechanisms to allow undocumented parents to appoint caregivers and avoid detention or foster care for their children, in case of an emergency separation.
Beginning June 27, 2018, New York now has a process that allows parents at risk of immigration enforcement to plan for the safety of their children by choosing caregivers in the event of the parent's detention or deportation.
The District has a similar provision which permits parents to designate a caregiver for children. Legal Aid and our partner organizations have seen an increase in undocumented parents seeking assistance and advice to make a safe plan for their children through DC's custodial power of attorney statute.
This provision was enacted pursuant to the Safe and Stable Homes for Children and Youth Amendment Act of 2007 for parents “to establish consensual temporary arrangements for the care of their children without litigation.” Legal Aid had been at the forefront of both drafting the custodial power of attorney provision and supporting its enactment. A custodial power of attorney is an easy out-of-court document that allows parents to decide who will care for their children in the event of their detention or deportation, including details such as whether a parent wishes to be reunited with a child in another country. This powerful tool can help ensure that children are not placed in group detention facilities similar to those covered extensively in recent weeks.
Legal Aid is pleased that New York has enacted legislation that the District had the foresight to enact more than a decade ago. Low-income parents seeking assistance with a custodial power of attorney are encouraged to come to Legal Aid for help.