Georgia Joins Growing List with Formal Child Welfare Ties to Mexico

The Mexican consulate building in Atlanta. Georgia’s child welfare agency has entered into an agreement with the consulate to better handle custody issues after an immigration-related detention or deportation.

When parents are detained or deported by American immigration officials, their children can end up in a highly unstable situation, with child welfare officials forced to quickly find a safe place for them to live until they can be together with their parents again. That can mean living with relatives, or in some cases entering foster care.

In an attempt to more quickly reunite families disrupted by immigration actions involving Mexican nationals, the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) has forged a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Mexican consulate.

Through the agreement, DFCS will notify the consulate when a child is in its custody pursuant to an immigration action. The consulate will then assist the agency in locating family in Mexico, conducting safety checks, and arranging safe travel for children.

DFCS spokesperson Walter Jones said the agency intends to pursue similar arrangements with other countries that have consulates in the state, including Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the three nations at the heart of the controversial border policies of the Trump administration.

Georgia is not alone in developing an MOU with Mexico. North Carolina has had an agreement since 2015, and Jones said that served as the template for DFCS.

“There have been discussions for a couple of years on this – it was not prompted by any particular incident,” said Jones, in an e-mail to The Chronicle of Social Change. “The Mexican consul general signed a similar agreement when he was stationed in North Carolina and used it as a model for this one.”

Clark County, Nevada, Utah, and several large California counties also have a direct MOU with local consulates for Mexico. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, as well as the nonprofit Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), have arrangements with Mexican consulates.

Los Angeles County also works with its Mexican and Central American consulates to provide background checks on undocumented relatives in American who might take custody of a removed child.

Jones said the agreement in Georgia covers both children who are American citizens, and those who are Mexican citizens.

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.