In December 2010, Felipe Montes was detained by federal immigration authorities because he'd been caught driving without a license. When he was deported, he left behind his wife Marie Montes and their three young boys. She could not support the boys alone and the child welfare department in their North Carolina town removed them from her custody. The kids have now been in foster care for 19 months. Their youngest boy was born weeks after Montes was detained; he never met his baby.
The Alleghany County child welfare department argues that it's in the children's best interest to be adopted by the foster families they live with rather than be reunified with their father in Mexico. The family's next court hearing is now scheduled for early August.
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I spoke with Montes this week and asked him what he would say to his children on this father's day weekend. These are his words, as he told them to me.
-- Seth Freed Wessler
To My Sons,
The best memory that I have of my life is of being with you and your mother. We are together at the table in our house and we are eating dinner. We are talking and laughing. I cooked Mexican food and your mother cooked too. On the night I remember most we ate chicken on the grill with barbeque sauce and I cooked Mexican rice with vegetables. That's what you loved the most. It was nice out and I remember feeling happy.
You are still so small and you don't understand what happened. You don't understand how it got like this. What I want you to know is that I never left you behind. I never wanted to leave you. I love you and I want to give you the best life you could have. The only problem is the immigration stuff, you see, the government stuff. In the US If you don't have the right kind of papers you can be deported, sent away. The government doesn't pay attention to if you have a family, or what will happen to them when you're gone. They didn't care that I was trying to do good for you.
When you were born it was some kind of feeling. I wanted to cry when I saw you. When I saw a little tiny baby, saw that I helped give a life to someone else. It's so beautiful, my baby boys.
I have heard people tell me that kids have gone into foster care and then they're adopted after their parents are deported. But it is not right to put kids into foster care when there's a father who loves his children like I love you. I want you to know that if anyone says that I didn't take care of you or that I don't want to be with you, it's a lie. I love you to death.
The next hearing about our family is in August. I pray to God that everything goes right. I want to see you, my babies. I want you see your father, no matter what, no matter how. I worry most that I will lose this case and I will lose you; that you will be adopted. That is my worry more than anything. You are all that I have. I don't have anything else but you.
I talk to your mother every three days. I tell her, one day we can be a family, together again. I want to see you grow up, to see you become men. I want to see you become good men, good people. That's what I want for you--the best in the world. And I will do whatever it takes.
To my baby, I never met you, but what I can tell you is I love you the same as I love the your brothers. I have not been allowed to talk to you. I asked if they could send me pictures but they have not.
If you were all here, we would live with my uncle and aunt and their three girls. My cousins and my uncle and aunt, they are good people. They are a loving, kind family. My uncle, he was like a father for me and he will be like a grandpa for you. I was separated from my mother and stepfather when I was nine. I came to live with my uncle and my grandma and they raised me. My cousins, they are playful girls and they will play with you, they will love you.
I want to tell you that I will be there for you every time you need me. That I will never give up. I love you and my family before and after anything else. My family is my life.
Your Father, Felipe