The political climate has caused many Illinois undocumented immigrants to rethink plans for their families. Child custody arrangements have become a legal tool that could protect the best interests of their children in cases of detainment or deportation. Many immigrant families will go to great lengths to allow children access to opportunity and keep them safe from violence and gang activity.

Children with citizenship status may be separated from their parents during a detainment or deportation. In order to avoid this, some parents have decided to enter into various child custody agreements with trusted relatives or friends who have citizenship status. One such mother chose her sister-in-law as the custodial parent. The mother also signed over her home, auto and other possessions to her sister-in-law and daughter.

Many communities are seeing these actions take place at clinics staffed by law students and pro bono attorneys. With many immigrant families, documented or not, holding significant assets in the United States, there is an understandable need to protect those assets from immigration officials. The largest need though appears to be protecting children’s access to school and work opportunities.

Whether immigrant parents are fearing criminal charges or even the risk of detainment for a period of time, it may make sense to enter into a joint custody or other arrangement. A custodial parent can allow children to continue to enjoy their citizenship status without further disruption. However, providing another person with legal and physical custody of a child also comes with risks. An attorney may be able to help families understand these risks and choose the best option.