Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy is helping undocumented parents in his state prepare for the unthinkable: making sure their children will be taken care of should they be detained or deported.
Citing reports of mounting anxieties within the undocumented immigrant community, the governor's office released a step-by-step guide to help parents of U.S. citizen children prepare in case their families are separated.
The Family Preparedness Plan, which is being distributed online and throughout state and local schools, libraries and other organizations, offers advice on how undocumented parents can designate and empower a standby guardian to care for their children so they don't end up in state custody. It also includes information on how the children can access public benefits like health care, cash assistance, food stamps and Social Security disability payments.
"We want to make sure that people have a plan in place should immigration action separate their families," Malloy said in a press release last week.
The governor's office estimates that there are 22,000 U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrant parents living in Connecticut. If their parents were to be deported, these children would likely end up in foster care and would cost the state an estimated $630 million, the governor's office said.
Even if only some of the children of undocumented immigrants are forced into state care, "the emotional toll on the children would be egregious," said Connecticut Department of Children and Families Commissioner, Joette Katz in the release.
The most important thing undocumented parents can do now is to identify someone they trust to care for their children and to designate them a standby guardian, Katz said. This gives them legal power to make medical and educational decisions for the child that an informal agreement would not.
Standby guardianship lasts until the parents can care for their children again, or for one year, whichever comes first. After that year, if they wish the guardianship to become more permanent, they would need to go before probate court, Donnelly said.
The forms don't require a lawyer to complete or to be notarized. However, they need to be signed by two witnesses and both parents must agree to the designation, unless one is deceased or has lost their parental rights in court.
The preparedness plan, which can be downloaded as a PDF in either English or Spanish, also includes information on an individual's rights should they be approached by an Immigrations & Customs Enforcement official, how to find an accredited immigration attorney and avoid scams.
It also provides contact information that will help family members find them should they be detained and a checklist on the instructions parents should give to guardians, doctors and schools.
"We've had reports from the school system that parents are keeping their kids home for fear of deportation, and so we wanted to make sure we did everything we could to arm them with the information they needed to prepare," said Donnelly.