Undocumented parents — what you need to know

Recent developments in immigration law have certainly caused a great deal of fear and worry among immigrant families. Fear can either propel to action or can immobilize and paralyze. In recent articles, it has been our goal to offer words of hope. Having correct information and knowledge should empower, and prepare those who are uncertain about their future in the United States.
In addition to knowing your basic rights, carrying your important documents, and having preparedness or safety plans in place, families with mixed immigration status should consider making arrangements for their children and loves ones, in case the harsh threat of being torn apart becomes reality. To that end, undocumented parents status need to communicate with their children and other family members about the possibility of removal and their wishes and goals as to what should happen to children and other dependents. Keeping your family in the dark about immigration status is sadly no longer an option.
It is recommended that undocumented parents decide, as difficult as it may be who should care for their children in the event they are unable to do so. This may include designating informal caregivers or legal guardians. Informal caregivers and legal guardians have different rights under the law. For example, informal caregivers may assume physical custody of children, but they have limited powers to make important decisions. Legal guardians, on the other hand, are appointed through courts and they have the ability to act on children’s behalf and make legal decisions. Power of attorney forms do not transfer any custody rights and are not helpful when undocumented parents are detained or removed.
While embarking on this process can be difficult and emotionally taxing, it is important that undocumented parents take steps to prepare for every possibility. The safety and well-being of children should be paramount here. This is why we recommend that undocumented parents make good and informed decisions and put action plans in motion with the assistance of reputable immigration and family attorneys. Help is available so please do not lose hope, after all, you may be entitled to immigration benefits and relief that you are presently unaware of.


Kelly S. O’Reilly is a nationally known immigration expert and former immigration officer. He is a highly sought after speaker on immigration and employment compliance issues. Mr. O’Reilly serves as the current chair of the Riverside County Bar Association Immigration section and is a partner in the full-service immigration firm of the Wilner & O’Reilly where he provides free consultations. Mr. O’Reilly can be contacted at (714) 919-8880 and he welcomes email inquiries at kelly@wilneroreilly.com.

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