Felipe Montes lived and worked in the United States for nine years. During that time, he held a full-time job, paid his bills, and fathered two children with his wife, Marie. He failed, however, to pay several traffic tickets, or to acquire a driver's license or car insurance. As a result, a 2010 traffic stop ended with Montes being taken to a detention center where he was scheduled for deportation.
Marie Montes gave birth to the couple's third child while her husband was behind bars. Six weeks later Felipe Montes was deported. Two weeks after that, the Allegheny County child welfare department took all three children from Marie Montes on the grounds that she could not afford to take care of them, and put them in foster care, where two of them have already been abused.
Color Lines, the publication put out by the immigration reform think tank Applied Research Center, interviewed Montes, his wife, and their neighbors in Sparta, North Carolina. "He was a real good guy and as a worker he could do anything," said Montes' former boss. "He loved those kids more than anything. We'd be doing tree work and it'd be kind of dangerous and he'd say, 'I'll do this but if something happens you have to take care of the kids, ok?'"
"I love my kids to death," Montes told Color Lines. "When they were born, it's something so wonderful you can't explain."
Apparently, love and dedication doesn't qualify Montes to be a dad anymore, as the state of North Carolina is putting his children up for adoption:
Allegheny County has already convinced a judge to end family reunification efforts with Marie Montes. She wants the children to be placed with their father. "If they can't be with me, I want them to be with him," she said. "Nobody is a better father than he is."
But next week, on February 21, the county's Department of Social Services plans to ask a judge to cease all efforts to reunify the family and put the children into adoption proceedings with foster families. Though Felipe Montes was his children's primary caregiver before he was deported and has not been charged with neglect, the child welfare department nonetheless believes that his children, who have now been in foster care for over a year, are better off in the care of strangers than in Mexico with their father.
For Montes, this feels tantamount to kidnapping.
"I cannot find the words to tell you how important my kids are to me. I would do anything for them," he told Colorlines.com, speaking on his cell phone in Mexico while on a break from his job at a farm.
"In this world there are many injustices. At the very least, I would like them to send my kids to Mexico."