A county magistrate in North Carolina ordered Tuesday that a Mexican man deported two years ago receive custody of his three U.S.-born children.
In an unprecedented decision, Alleghany County Judge Michael Duncan ruled that Felipe Montes, 32, be provisionally reunited with his sons Isaias, 5, Adrian, 3, and Angel, 2.
"The court cannot find that the father is unfit," Duncan said. "The permanent plan is reunification with the father."
Montes was deported in December 2010 after receiving a series of traffic fines and immigration authorities found he was in the country illegally.
Montes left 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 by the North Carolina Department of Social Services, which placed the boys with foster parents.
The judge ruled that the family's reunification should begin Dec. 7, when the children will go to live with the Mexican at the hotel in Sparta where he has been staying since he returned to the United States on a special visa.
On Feb. 19, Montes must return to court so that Duncan can make a final decision on whether the man can take his children to live with him in Mexico.
According to Montes' attorney Donna Shumate, it is normal in custody cases for the judge to grant a probation period and bring the parent and children together to make sure the transition takes place satisfactorily.
"Though we haven't finished and this case has been very unusual...today's decision is a good step forward, and shows that my client is a good father who can bring up his children in another country and that deportation is not an impediment," Shumate told Efe.
"I'm pleased the result was favorable, but I'll have to be full of patience and wait even longer," Montes told Efe. EFE