It had been 10 weeks since Ramos had last held her 2-year-old, Alexa. Ten weeks since she was arrested crossing the border into Texas and U.S. immigration authorities seized her daughter and told her she would never see the girl again.
What followed — one foster family’s initially successful attempt to win full custody of Alexa — reveals what could happen to some of the infants, children and teens taken from their families at the border under a Trump administration policy earlier this year.
…An Associated Press investigation drawing on hundreds of court documents, immigration records and interviews in the U.S. and Central America identified holes in the system that allow state court judges to grant custody of migrant children to American families — without notifying their parents.
And today, with hundreds of those mothers and fathers deported thousands of miles away, the risk has grown exponentially.
…Three days after their separation, court records show, the U.S. government labeled Alexa an “unaccompanied minor,” which meant she entered the bureaucracy for migrant youth, typically teens, who arrive in the U.S. alone. The toddler was issued a notice to appear on “a date to be set, at a time to be set, to show why you should not be removed from the United States.”
…It took 28 minutes for a judge in a rural courthouse near Lake Michigan to grant Alexa’s foster parents, Sherri and Kory Barr, temporary guardianship. Alexa’s mother and the little girl’s immigration attorney were not even notified about the proceedings.
…In Missouri, an American couple managed to permanently adopt a baby whose Guatemalan mother had been picked up in an immigration raid. That seven-year legal battle terminating the mother’s parental rights ended in 2014. In Nebraska, another Guatemalan mother prevailed and got her kids back, but it took five years and over $1 million in donated legal work.