According to the latest available statistics, approximately 4.5 million kids born in America have at least one undocumented parent. With ICE agents aggressively capturing undocumented persons and the US Citizenship and Immigration Service stepping up deportations, many mixed citizenship families are rightfully afraid they will be split apart over the next few years. If you're at risk of being deported, here are a few things you can do to protect your kids.

Decide If the Kids Are Staying or Leaving

The first thing you need to decide is whether your children will go to your home country with you or if they'll remain in the United States. There are benefits and drawbacks to either option. Taking your kids with you eliminates the risk they'll be put into foster care, and your kids will probably be better off emotionally and mentally if they're with you, even though they may have to adjust to a new language and culture.

On the other hand, if your home country doesn't have the same quality of services available in the US, leaving them here may provide them with opportunities for a better future. Additionally, children can sponsor family members into the country starting at age 21, which may provide an avenue for you to return to the US as a legal citizen.

You'll need to make arrangements for them in either case, but the type of preparations required differ depending on your choice. Since children born in America are automatically granted citizenship per the Fourteen Amendment of the Constitution, you won't be able to take them with you the day you're deported, but they can be brought to you. You'll need to create a notarized letter giving an adult permission to take your kids out of the country. Be certain to put together a file with your kids' birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports, and other paperwork they will need to travel.

If you plan on leaving the kids in the US, you must make arrangements to have someone care for them long term and give the person legal authority to make decisions in your stead; otherwise, they may end up in the foster care system. This can be done by assigning legal guardianship to a trusted adult, signing over custody to a family member who is also a citizen (e.g., an older child of legal age), requesting kinship foster care, or putting the child up for adoption. It's best to talk to a family law attorney, like Marlene Dancer Adams, for information on the best option for your situation.

Create a Power of Attorney

For children who will remain behind in the United States, you will also need to create a power of attorney giving someone you trust the authority to handle money or property you may leave behind for the kids, as well as authority to make medical decisions for them. If you own a home, for instance, you can authorize the person to make mortgage payments from your bank account.

Power of attorney documents give recipients a lot of authority, so it's essential you pick someone trustworthy. If you're concerned about potential abuses, limit the document's scope. For example, you can grant the person permission to pay for necessary maintenance on the home, but require him or her to consult you about major expenses such as replacing the roof.

Consider Adding a Co-Owner to Property and Accounts

A third thing you can do is to put the name of a trusted adult as the co-owner of the property or joint owner of accounts. This will make it easier for the person to take over responsibility of these items while you're gone. If you rent a home, adding the person's name to the lease can reduce the risk of your children being evicted because you're not there, since the other adult will have the right to stay in the unit.

Bank accounts, cell phones, vehicles, utility accounts, credit cards, and similar items are all things you should consider adding a joint user to.

For more information about this issue or help handling the legal aspects of developing a caretaker plan for your kids, contact a family law attorney.