Steps to Take to Prepare Your Family

Overview

Our families are important sources of strength, love and support. Just as cities and schools have plans in place for emergencies, you should have a plan in place to make sure that your family, your finances, and your future are as secure as possible in an uncertain time. Taking proactive steps to prepare yourself and your family in case you encounter immigration enforcement or other obstacles will help you feel more confident and prepared, and reduce stress and uncertainty.

Making a Family Preparedness Plan

Every family regardless of immigration status should make a family preparedness plan in case of emergency. Family preparedness plans are a collection of documents and important information about family member’s medical history, childcare preferences, social security numbers, financial matters, and more. A preparedness plan also outlines immediate and longer-term actions to be taken if a member of the family is detained or otherwise at risk. Compiling this plan ahead of time will reduce stress and result in better outcomes for your family.

Keep the documents you have collected and copied in a physical binder and/or an electronic folder that is then shared with others in the family.

It is important to find, make copies, and organize into a binder all important personal documents: IDs, birth certificates, marriage, medical, financial and school records, and immigration records and letters including your “alien registration number” if you have one (the 8-digit number that begins with an “A”). You can share these with a lawyer as well as other adults or responsible children to keep them safe and easy to access in case of an emergency.

If your children are minors, you should ask a lawyer about designating someone else to care for them if you are detained or deported. The options will be different in different states, but may include: a guardianship, a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit, a Power of Attorney, or other types of letters or forms. This person should be someone you trust who has legal status. If you don’t know anyone with legal status, make a plan with someone you trust.

This designation means that if anything happens that makes it hard for you to communicate with your family, like if you are placed in a detention center, the person you’ve chosen can step in and make important decisions to keep your family from being separated.

Whether you need to consult an attorney to make arrangements for your children, for your financial assets, to better understand your immigration options, or in case of detention, you should expect to incur some amount of legal expenses. Anticipating these fees and saving money in advance can ease this process and avoid draining your account in case of emergency.

You should also look into whether or not a local community organization has a bond or immigration legal expenses fund, which can help to cover some of the costs mentioned above. Certain state and local governments have also set up such funds. You or a loved one may be eligible to receive financial assistance from one or more of these if you apply.

If your child is a United States citizen, you can secure a U.S. passport for them, which will enable them to travel abroad. You may also inquire with your home country’s consulate as to whether or not they grant dual citizenship. If they do, you can secure dual citizenship for your child and apply for a passport from your home country as well.

If your child was born in another country, visit that country’s local consulate to obtain a passport for them.

Acquiring passports for your child is helpful because if you or another family member has to leave the U.S. and is unable to return to the country for an extended period of time, your child can travel with you or visit you regularly.

Qualify for Other Forms of Immigration Relief

It is estimated that more than a million undocumented individuals are eligible for existing forms of immigration relief. Use one of the free tools below to see if you may be eligible.

Establishing Guardianship of Children

You should ask a lawyer about designating someone else to care for your children, if they are minors, if you are detained or deported. The options will be different in different states, but may include: a guardianship, a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit, a Power of Attorney, or other types of letters or forms. This person should be someone you trust who has legal status. If you don’t know anyone with legal status, make a plan with someone you trust.

This designation means that if anything happens that makes it hard for you to communicate with your family, like you are placed in a detention center, the person you’ve chosen can step in and make important decisions to keep your family from being separated.  

Protecting Your Financial Assets

As part of your planning for the future, it is important that you take stock of your financial assets and make specific plans for each to ensure that in the event of your departure from the country, you do not have to forfeit or otherwise lose the asset.

Here are some common assets that you may possess but could lose if you choose or are made to leave the country and do not make plans ahead of time:

  • Personal Property    
  • Bank Accounts    
  • Credit Cards    
  • Motor Vehicles    
  • Real Property (Land, House, or Condo)  
  • Settlements, Investments, and Inheritance  
  • Child Support    
  • Education Savings Plans  
  • Government or Employee Benefits

The requirements and process for protecting assets differ from state to state, so you should consult a licensed attorney for assistance.

Talking to Kids About Immigration Enforcement

Children often pick up on spoken and unspoken signals from their parents and loved ones. They understand when their parents are nervous or anxious. It is important to have a conversation, without alarming them, about who you have chosen to take care of them in case you must leave for any period of time. This can help reduce the anxiety or uncertainty they may be feeling about the future, and they can memorize important details like the guardian’s phone number and address in case they should need them. Let them know that no matter what happens, you have made plans for their security, and that if they are worried they can come to you to talk.

According to recent research, current immigration policies can have negative impacts on the health and happiness of children with immigrant parents and family members. The stress around an uncertain future due to immigration status can understandably cause depression and anxiety in children as young as five.

If you think your child may be experiencing anxiety or depression, there are several steps you can take to help them. Depression is treatable, and a mental health professional can help diagnose and put together a plan for you and your child to complete together.

Here are some signs to look for in your child:

  • Depressed or irritable mood
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Change in grades, getting into trouble at school, or refusing to go to school
  • Change in eating habits
  • Feeling angry or irritable
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling worthless or restless
  • Frequent sadness or crying
  • Withdrawing from friends and activities
  • Loss of energy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Source: Anxiety and Depression Association of America

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