Nebraska Immigrant Family Bonds Protected by State Supreme Court

Since the formation of the our Child Welfare System Accountability Program in 2003, Nebraska Appleseed has been dedicated to enforce constitutional, federal, and state statutory requirements for providing adequate child welfare services in the State of Nebraska, and using legal advocacy to support needed policy reform initiatives. In particular, we are committed to working on issues at the intersection of child welfare, immigration, and language as well as educating attorneys on these vital issues.

Nebraska Appleseed has successfully advocated on behalf of immigrants in the child welfare system. In the 2004 case In re Interest of Mainor T., Nebraska Appleseed effectively argued in the Nebraska Supreme Court on behalf of a mother whose parental rights were terminated following her deportation to her home country. The Court rejected the juvenile court’s termination order and remanded the case to the court with directions to conduct new hearings and provide the mother with her due process rights.

Last month, in the case In re Interest of Angelica L. and Daniel L., the Nebraska Supreme Court unanimously reversed a trial court decision and ruled that the State of Nebraska acted improperly in terminating the parental rights of a Guatemalan mother who had been deported. The Court held that that the best interests of the children were for them to be reunited with their mother. Nebraska Appleseed provided assistance through our Legal Resource Center to the mother’s trial and appellate counsel and made a brief appearance on behalf of the mother in a post-judgment motion. In addition to our work on these cases, Nebraska Appleseed is developing policy briefs to assist child welfare practitioners on immigration and language issues.

We are well aware that on these issues passions may run high and certain groups may be out of favor, as has been the case throughout our nation’s history. Yet, the guarantees provided for in our federal and state constitutions and statutes must always be guided by the lodestar of “Equality before the Law.”

We are heartened by the Supreme Court’s careful consideration of the facts in their recent decision and its indication that a parent’s attempt to bring herself and her children into the United States, in the belief that they would have a better life here, does not show an appreciable absence of care, concern, or judge­ment. The Court also noted that parents do not forfeit their parental rights because they are deported and reiterated that the best interests of children are to be reunited with their parents so long as the parent has not been proven to be unfit. We applaud the Supreme Court’s guidance to juvenile courts on issues at the intersection of child welfare and immigration and look forward to a continued jurisprudence of respect for the fundamental rights of familial integrity and due process of law for all persons in the State of Nebraska.

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