Deported Parents May Lose Their Kids Through Adoption

by Jerriann Sullivan
Image via LOREN ELLIOTT/AFP/Getty Images

Deported parents are seeing their kids be adopted by U.S. families

Deported parents, who are already heartbroken from being forced to separate from their children, are now losing their kids to families in the United States through adoption. A new investigative report from the Associated Press shows how mothers and fathers who fled violence and war are now having their families torn apart.

It’s likely that we will never know the total number of families who have been impacted by Donald Trump’s racist policies. But during just six weeks earlier this year, the Associated Press noted that Trump’s separation of families at the border resulted in at least 2,000 kids being taken from their parents. That averages out to 48 kids a day, but remember that was just in six weeks. It’s very likely the total number of kids separated from their moms and dads is much higher.

While the policy to divide the family is a federal one, once the kids are taken from their parents they’re often put in foster homes or detention centers that are run by state officials. Child-welfare systems, which handle adoptions, are also run by state officials. By moving the child from a federal program to a state-run one, officials have made it easy for American families to adopt these kids while their parents are still desperately searching for them. It’s unclear how many detained kids have been adopted by a U.S. family, but the AP located at least a few heartbreaking examples of what happens when it does occur.

Regardless, it isn’t legal, so it shouldn’t be happening at all.

“We have the kids in the U.S. and the parents down in Central America, and now they’ll bring all these child welfare agencies into play,” explained, John Sandweg, who ran U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under Barack Obama. “It’s just a recipe for disaster.” Sandweg told the AP that he’s worried many more kids taken from their parents will never see them again. And since the Trump administration only increased its efforts to detain children, it’s likely that thousands of children will be separated from their families forever.

Just last month 12,800 kids were detained, according to The New York Times. Previously, kids who were detained could be released into the custody of sponsors, which are typically parents or extended family members. But Trump’s administration changed the policy and started handing over info on sponsors to immigration officials. Trump’s new policy had the desired effect and scared would-be sponsors by threatening deportation.

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the cruel process is that state officials aren’t even notifying parents when they’ve granted custody of their children to American families. Thousands of families have been torn apart and not given even basic information on how they can locate their family members. “The reality is that for every parent who is not located, there will be a permanent orphaned child, and that is 100 percent the responsibility of the administration,” U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said.

Araceli Ramos Bonilla fled a physically abusive husband in El Salvador only to arrive in the U.S. and have her asylum denied and her daughter, Alexa, taken from her. “If they give our children up for adoption without our permission, that isn’t justice,” she shared. Alexa’s foster parents claimed her mother was abusive and fought to adopt the child. But Bonilla remained vigilant. She posted a series of videos to Facebook that went viral and forced officials to pay attention. Eventually, she was reunited with her daughter.

“They are our children, not theirs,” she said.