New California state bill aims to prevent separation of families when a parent is deported

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A California state Senate committee has voted to support a bill that would help keep the children of deported parents from getting lost in the foster care system.

State Senator Kevin de León of Los Angeles introduced the Reuniting Immigrant Families Act earlier this month. If passed, the bill would be the first legislation anywhere in the country that allows judges to offer more time and opportunities for deported parents to reunite with their American-born children.

About 5,100 children of deported immigrant parents are now in child welfare systems across the United States. Federal data also indicates that about a quarter of them live in California.

The options for most deported parents include taking children born in the U.S. back to their countries of origin, or leaving those children with relatives here. But if kids separated from their parents go into the foster care system, often the parents never learn where they've gone.

Under California law, if a child has been out of his or her parent’s custody for a year, local child welfare agencies could terminate parental rights.