Los Angeles, CA–The media frequently devotes much attention to mothers who are separated from their children by deportation actions. The treatment is usually highly sympathetic to the mothers. When fathers are deported away from their children, little attention is paid. Even when the media covers the issue, there is little handwringing, as evidenced in a recent straight-facts story from the Los Angeles Times–Custody case of Long Beach boy complicates deportation of illegal immigrant (6/30/08). The story details the case of Michael Campo, a 10-year-old Los Angeles boy whose father Carlos Alvarado is an illegal immigrant. Alvarado is fighting deportation proceedings, saying that he should be allowed to stay in the U.S. because of his son. According to the Times:
Alvarado sneaked across the Mexican border in 1991. He and Marla Campo met about five years later and she gave birth to Michael in October 1997. After a few years, the couple separated. In 2003, Campo disappeared with Michael. Alvarado called police, who tracked her down…the couple returned to court and the judge gave the parents joint legal custody…Michael spends every weekend with his father. Alvarado pays child support and pays for Michael’s health insurance. Alvarado’s trial in immigration court took place in June 2005. The judge ruled that he could stay in the U.S…The government attorney appealed the case, saying in court papers that ‘this separation is no different than if [Alvarado] relocated to another state in the U.S.'”
Read the full article here. A few points: 1) The government attorney’s argument in favor of deporting the father–“this separation is no different than if [Alvarado] relocated to another state in the U.S.”–is ludicrous. Forcing Carlos Alvarado to move back to Mexico will drive a huge wedge between him and his son, and the relationship might be lost altogether. Consider:
Carlos Alvarado will be unable to visit his son in the United States Alvarado is dependent upon the child being sent by the custodial mom to visit him in Mexico. She may not do this–she already kept the child away from his father in the past, and may well do so again. Though the exes are getting along well right now, that could change. We also can’t help noticing that the mother gave the child her last name, not his father’s. Moreover she is already saying she doesn”t feel safe sending him to a border town in Mexico. Carlos Alvarado will have far less income available to him to spend on visiting his son, communicating with him, buying him gifts, etc.
2) There are many exceptions made in immigration cases. The most notable one is for women who claim to be victims of domestic violence. The Violence Against Women Act provides allegedly battered immigrant women a way to become US residents. For example, women in deportation proceedings can claim domestic violence and get a “cancellation of removal” and obtain residency. We have mixed emotions about this VAWA provision. We certainly favor aiding battered women, but we know from family court how frequently false claims are made in order to gain advantages. Regardless, if we can make an exception to immigration laws for allegedly battered wives, we should also be able to make exceptions to protect a 10-year-old boy from losing his father. 3) Let’s look at it from another angle. First, let’s disregard the human factor. Second, let’s assume that illegal immigrants really are harmful to the US–a debatable assertion, but let’s use it for the purposes of this argument. Looking at this case only in light of dollars and cents, the father still should be allowed to stay in the US. Why? Consider: a) The boy is a U.S. citizen–whatever problems he encounters or creates, the US will have to deal with them. The boy is far less likely to become involved in crime or drugs, drop out of school or become a burden to society if he has a dad in his life than if he doesn’t. All of those cost the taxpayer money–allowing Alvarado to stay would probably save taxpayers money in the long run. b) The father pays child support and also pays for the boy’s health insurance. If he’s deported, both will cease, and the taxpayers will likely end up footing the bill. 4) If Alvarado is deported, he might also face child support enforcement action. He would have to get a downward modification of his child support based on his new, lower earnings in Mexico, which isn’t easy to do for anybody, much less a low-income man living in Mexico. Arrearages will mount. Even if he finds legal ways to return to the US to see his child, marry, or work, he will be subject to arrest for child support arrearages. It is even possible that an extradition treaty with Mexico exists such that he will be arrested and brought to the US for child support arrearages. Any way you look at this, everyone is better off if this hardworking and devoted dad is allowed to stay in the US — the child, the mom, the dad, his employer, and the US taxpayer.