Erring On The Side Of Caring

Ten-year old Michael Campo, has a problem which many others could soon share if the way we are enforcing immigration laws continues. His father, Carlos Alvarado, here illegally was arrested for drunk driving and referred to Immigration by the County Jail. He has now been ordered deported to his native Mexico. Alvarado pays $276 a month child support and though the court order says he is to see his son every other week end, he sees him every week. A lower Immigration court had allowed Alvarado to stay in the U.S. and continue working at the same plastering job he’s had since he’s been in the U.S., but a higher court disagreed and referred the case back to the lower one.
In Mexico, Alvarado who has joint custody with Michael’s mother, would be deprived of his custody rights, and since it is doubtful he would be able to send child support (he would no doubt earn less and has other children) would be in violation of that court order. Immigration officials contend that this is no different than when a parent moves to another state, and refuse to grant or entertain the idea of hardship. Michael’s mother, herself an illegal immigrant from Brazil fears sending her child to Mexico, so it is doubtful he would be able to continue seeing his father on a regular basis. Michael is a U.S. citizen and while he has rights these may not apply or make a difference.
The issues of the case involve two different legal systems, that of the State which oversees family law and that of the Federal government which oversees Immigration laws, two systems which in this, as in the many such similar cases in the future, come in conflict. Seen in terms of its underlying values, rather than in terms of conflicting legal systems, the issues seem much simpler. In our eagerness to enforce immigration laws and be tough on illegals and other non-citizens, are we loosing track of what is right for families? Are we allowing what may well be our prejudices about illegal immigration to supersede the rights of this young American citizen and do what would be best for him and for his family including a father who is employed but who made a mistake? If we believe in family values, then oughtn’t we to make them count when the chips are down, when the situation is difficult and the choices not clear cut?
Let’s hope judges and others deciding guidelines for such cases allow themselves to be informed by the values hidden in this case and err on the side of caring.