On March 6, 2014, a judge agreed with the Oregon DHS decision to send a six-year-old girl currently in state custody to her father in Mexico. While the basic logic of reuniting a child with a parent is understandable, there is something larger at stake here. The State of Oregon has essentially deported a United States citizen when no crime had been committed by that citizen.
A bit of background – the girl’s mother was deemed to be unfit due to a drug addiction problem, and so the child was taken by the state and placed in foster care. Her grandmother, Kerrie Lachuga, has fought to gain custody of the child (whose name has not been released) and keep her here. The DHS plan was to reunite her with her father in Mexico. Both her father and grandmother have had criminal pasts. It should be noted, in 2013, DHS sent 34 children off to live with their parents overseas.
And yet, no one has seemingly challenged the DHS on the constitutionality of deporting a citizen for no cause. The Constitution protects people from such actions. The Fourth Amendment guarantees, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures….” This girl was unreasonably seized and soon will be taken out of the state of Oregon. She is an innocent. She committed no crime. She should not be being sent away.
More critical are the protections offered by the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1, which states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The six-year-old child in this case has been deprived of her liberty and she has most assuredly been denied equal protection.
Though the group is at times controversial, hopefully the ACLU will take up this case and challenge the decision, as well as act as an advocate for the other children sent away without getting their due process. Families should absolutely be kept together, but not when the process interferes with basic human rights.