Felipe Montes rose this morning well before sunrise and woke his children. His bags packed with their clothes and some toys, he loaded the three young boys into a car that the Mexican consulate sent. They rode two hours to the international airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. At 9AM the father led his boys onto a plane to Mexico City.
It has been 29 months since Montes was detained by immigration authorities for driving violations in the small Appalachian town of Sparta, North Carolina. After his deportation, the county child welfare department removed his three sons, now 5, 3 and 2-years old, from their mother, Marie Montes, and placed them into foster care. The mother struggles with drug addiction and mental illness and was deemed unfit to care for her kids. She and her husband asked that the kids be reunited with their father in Mexico but the child welfare department refused. After a protracted legal fight over his parental rights, a local judge granted Felipe Montes full custody of his kids last month.
With the support of the advocacy group Presente.org, Felipe Montes on Wednesday launched a last minute petition to remain in the United States. He said he wanted to stay in the United States with Marie Montes, who is pregnant. But federal immigration authorities refused to extend Montes' humanitarian parole, which Immigration and Customs Enforcement granted in August to allow Montes to return the U.S. for his parental rights hearings. The father will take his children to a small town in Tamaulipas, Mexico, a place the boys have never been.