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Mother, Go Home!

July 8, 2011 permalink

Mother Antonia Campos and her three daughters, citizens of different countries, were ripped apart by American immigration police. After a year's litigation, they have been reuntied.



Deported woman reunited with US citizen children

Antonia Campos with daughters Yulissa Nevarrez, Mireya Nevarrez and Milka Nevarrez
Antonia Campos sits with her daughters Yulissa Nevarrez, 11, left, Mireya Nevarrez, 14, and Milka Nevarrez, 12, right, after the custody battle for her children ended in her favor Thursday at the El Paso County Courthouse.
Mark Lambie/El Paso Times

A woman who was deported to Mexico and separated from her five children, all United States citizens, for more than 10 months regained custody on Thursday after a children's court judge dismissed the case.

Antonia Campos was detained on Aug. 29, 2010, after trying to illegally enter the U.S. Campos had been living in America for 17 years yet traveled to Mexico with her children to visit Campos' ailing father.

Her five children, ranging in age from 7 to 15, returned to El Paso before Campos. She was arrested while attempting to cross the Rio Grande.

After her detention, Child Protective Services officials visited Campos' home and took the unattended children into custody. Campos was deported to Mexico; her children were placed in foster homes.

They had no immediate relative living in the U.S.

Since then, Campos had been pushing for her children's release so they could reunite with her in Mexico.

Campos, who was allowed to enter the United States temporarily for the court appointment, hugged her children after Thursday's hearing.

"I told (the children) that we're going to struggle a bit, but we're going to make it," she said.

Mireya Nevarrez, 14, said she was also concerned about the change, yet was happy to be reunited with her mother.

"At first I felt afraid, but now that I'm going to be with my mom again, I don't feel that anymore," she said.

Campos' attorney, Maria Ramirez, issued a news release stating that Campos has found a home in Juárez and obtained a job as a medical aide for a disabled person.

"We're very happy. My client is a very good mother, and they are good children because of her," Ramirez said.

During the hearing, Campos said the Family Integral Development office in Juárez, or DIF, which is in charge of children and family services in the city, conducted an extensive investigation of Campos' home.

It issued a report stating that it found the home appropriate for the children.

CPS officials, upon reviewing the report, agreed to let Campos reunite with her children.

"All we care about is the safety of the children," said Richard Deck, an El Paso County attorney representing CPS. Deck requested the case be dismissed, yet noted that the children suffered from neglect after Campos' arrest, going nearly two weeks without food at home.

Rosendo Torres, a private attorney appointed to represent the children, also agreed with the dismissal. Torres pointed out that the oldest child, 15-year-old Arnoldo, expressed his preference to remain in the United States.

In a letter read in court, Rafael Salas, the children's appointed legal guardian, wrote he believed it was in the children's best interest to stay in the U.S. and avoid the dangers of living in Juárez.

Children's Court Judge Oscar G. Gabaldon Jr., upon reaching his verdict, said he saw enough evidence to see Campos as willing and capable to provide for her children. Throughout the process, he said, Campos "remained in contact with the children and showed unconditional commitment by being proactive."

"Government intervention in the life of parents and children is only to ensure that children are safe from the risk of harm," Gabaldon said. "The parental presumption is that the best interest of children is with their parents."

Ramirez, who pointed out that there is no law allowing children to be removed from their parents for being undocumented, said authorities never questioned Campos' competence as a mother because of her status as an undocumented immigrant.

Source: El Paso Times