Could part of the new "custody wars" taking place around the United States involve immigration status as a weapon?
It certainly seems that way, at least to one man who went to a Michigan court hoping to get custody of his children and found himself detained by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents instead.
The mother of the children is a United States citizen and she and her husband have been separated physically for many years -- although he payed regular support for his three children and has no criminal record. He does have a bench warrant due to failure to pay support, but his attorney says that he can prove that he paid the support -- although he gave it directly to his wife's landlord in order to make certain that the children had a home because his wife had a history of using the money for other things.
Arrests of undocumented immigrants who come to court on unrelated matters aren't a new occurrence -- they just are unusual for those showing up to family court, where the stakes are often high for the children involved.
In this situation, the father knowingly risked deportation because he found out that his wife's live-in boyfriend, against whom she has an existing protection order that is now being ignored, had threatened both his wife and his children. The boyfriend had threatened to kill them in their sleep, has tried to stab the man's wife and once attempted to blow up the home during an argument.
While one immigration attorney stated that it was the first time in 15 years he'd seen ICE take someone into custody from family court, incidents around the country suggest that this is a new tactic being employed nationally. Victims seeking help for domestic violence, those appearing for child support hearings and sexual assault victims have all been detained by ICE.
Arrests like these not only affect the undocumented immigrant -- they can have a devastating effect on the rest of the family, especially children who are suddenly left without a father or mother and less income on which to survive.
Because of the possibility of an arrest by ICE, any undocumented resident seeking custody changes or child support changes should talk to an attorney about the risks associated with even walking into court and explore other possible options instead.
Source: Michigan Radio, "Father arrested by immigration agents at Oakland County custody hearing," Sarah Cwiek, March 30, 2017