If parents in Tennessee get deported, they might leave their children behind in America. Among children who are being raised by extended family members, about 20 percent live in an immigrant household. This shows that many deported parents are relying on grandparents, aunts and uncles to raise their kids in the U.S.
Increasingly strict enforcement of immigration law means that the numbers of these children are growing. Some states have taken steps that allow parents to arrange for custody in the event that they are deported. In New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, bills have passed or been introduced that allow parents to appoint guardians in the event of immigration issues without giving up their parental rights. While children generally do better with family members (and placement with family members reduces the strain on the foster system), grandparents and others may be unable to access some benefits.
Many families are finding themselves facing a choice between being separated or taking their American-born children back to an unfamiliar country. This could soon be a bigger problem for parents from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan. Immigrants from these countries have enjoyed Temporary Protected Status. However, the Trump administration has announced it will end the TPS program for those countries.
Child custody issues can also be problematic for families not facing threats of deportation. For example, if parents are accused of abuse or neglect, extended family members may step in. Parents who divorce may also need to negotiate child custody and visitation. One parent might go to court to block the other parent’s access to custody if child endangerment could be an issue.