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Immigrant regains custody after appeal

A recent child custody ruling in Minnesota overturned a lower court's decision, awarding custody to the child's mother, an undocumented immigrant. The ruling is considered a win for the 4-year-old girl's 20-year-old mother, as well as a victory for immigration rights throughout the state. Court officials ruled that the woman's immigration status should not affect the evaluation of her fitness as a parent.

Attorneys in the case said the woman's case has established an important precedent, which is that being an undocumented immigrant does not mean you will lose your children in a custody battle. The woman had been fighting with the girl's paternal grandparents, who had wanted to strip her of her paternal rights.

The child was born in 2009 to the mother, who was 17 years old at the time, and her 15-year-old boyfriend. The teens did not wed, but they had been living with the boy's parents in Minnesota. The father's family was composed of legal residents and citizens, while the mother remains an undocumented immigrant. The child's mother left the house after a dispute in 2011, after which the girl's grandparents filed for emergency sole custody.

A judge in that case ruled that the woman was not a fit parent because of her citizenship status, so the grandparents received sole legal and physical custody of the girl. The child's maternal grandmother did not live in Minnesota.

The case sets an important precedent for undocumented immigrants, who should not be discriminated against because of their age, means or immigration status. Although many custody cases are decided based on specific facts, this ruling could have a bearing on the overall environment in which immigrants' court cases are decided.

Attorneys are still contemplating whether to appeal the decision to the state's Supreme Court.

Source:, "In custody battle, immigration status wasn't a factor, Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled," Abby Simmons, April 12, 2013

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