Yamir Cruz was supporting his five kids and their mom when he was deported from Georgia back to Mexico in 2011 after a series of domestic disputes. While in Mexico, he lost custody of his children, who’d been taken out of their mother’s care. Now he has a small window into their lives: a YouTube channel created by their adoptive parents, who have posted 57 family videos online.*
While no one keeps track of how many children are in foster care nationwide as a result of deportations, a nonprofit estimated in 2011 that at least 5,100 kids are in foster care in 22 states as a result of their parents being deported. In many cases, this runs counter to the ethos of the child welfare system, which is supposed to prioritize keeping biological families together.
While his custody case was proceeding, Yamir made multiple attempts to contact child welfare authorities, but he was shut out of the process. Yamir has reached out to the adoptive parents but has not received a response.
VICE News sat down with Yamir to talk about what it’s like to watch his children grow up from afar and to learn how other undocumented immigrants are taking pre-emptive precautions to be prepared if this worst-case scenario should occur.
*In order to protect the identities of the children, we are not disclosing the YouTube account.
This segment originally aired August 15, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.