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U.S. returns kids to deported Mexican father's custody


Sparta, North Carolina, Feb 19 (EFE).- A North Carolina judge decided Tuesday to return custody of three children to Mexican citizen Felipe Bautista Montes after a two-year legal battle that included his deportation and subsequent return to this country, along with lengthy court proceedings.

"I feel exhausted," Montes told Efe upon emerging from the Alleghany County courthouse in Sparta. "Now I'm going to throw myself into getting my family ahead in Mexico. It was a long process, but I did it."

Judge Michael Duncan issued his ruling on the basis of reports from the Alleghany County Department of Social Services that Isaias, 5, 3-year-old Adrian and 2-year-old Angel are "adjusting to life" with their father.

The kids were provisionally reunited with Montes under the terms of a Nov. 27 ruling by Duncan.

Montes, 32, was deported in December 2010 after receiving a series of traffic tickets and immigration authorities found he was in the country illegally.

He was forced to leave Adrian and Isaias with his then-pregnant wife, Marie, a woman with a history of mental problems and drug abuse.

Two months after Montes was deported, the children were taken from Marie and placed with foster parents.

Back in Mexico, Montes moved in with some relatives on a farm and launched the legal battle to recover the children.

Thanks to the intervention of the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh, Montes received a humanitarian visa last August and it was extended on three occasions so that he could personally participate in the case to recover custody of the boys.

"Today's decision can set a precedent for the immigration authorities to take into account that more immigrants may return to the country to fight for their children," Ann Robertson, an immigration attorney hired by the consulate, told Efe Tuesday.

Montes has until March 23 to return with his children to Mexico and he could emigrate again - legally - to the United States if he receives a sponsor, Robertson said.