Did Trump’s Deportation Executive Order Cause a Rise in Immigrant Child Custody Cases?

In January of this year, President Donald Trump signed his Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, creating more stringent deportation guidelines. As a result, many undocumented immigrants faced an uncertain future regarding their residency. Those placed in a particularly difficult position by Mr. Trump’s EO are undocumented immigrant parents with American born children. The recent arrest and deportation of Juan Carlos Fomperosa Garcia, a single parent with three U.S. citizen children, is a sobering example of the the EO’s real life consequences. But, did the EO spur undocumented immigrant parents to take legal action to keep their U.S. citizen children in the United States?

Sean Holstege’s article in the Phoenix New Times found that the data does not suggest a “Trump Bump” in custody filings or other legal actions that might keep these children in the U.S. Rather, Holstege found that in Maricopa County,

From January 25 through the end of February, 138 people petitioned the court for guardianship; another 156 sought temporary custody in family court. That’s a total of 289 custody applications in Maricopa County since Trump’s executive order.

By comparison, for the same period in 2016, families sought changes in custody 337 times.

That means custody applications fell 14 percent from the same period a year before.

On the other hand, Holstege found that undocumented immigrant parents have chosen a different legal path. Attorney’s Holstege spoke with noted a sharp increase in power of attorney letters that does not appear in the court data because they are not legal proceedings. Power of attorney letters allow parents to grant certain decision-making rights (i.e., school, health care, or finances) to another adult without giving away custody rights. The attorney’s Holstege spoke with cautioned panicked parents against paying too much for a power of attorney letter and suggested that undocumented immigrant parents attempt to draft the power of attorney letters themselves or attend presentations put on by the ACLU or LUCHA about how to write power of attorney letters.

Power of attorney letters in Arizona are a way to give limited decision-making authority over your child to another adult. Despite the relative simplicity of the solution, there are some complexities involved with the process that you should understand before signing a power of attorney. If you want to know more about power of attorney letters for children, contact my office to set up a free consultation.

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