Who on earth thought this child care was OK?

This is an outrage. Three children spent the night alone on Interstate 85 in Alamance County. A sheriff's deputy left them with a virtual stranger while he took their mother, an illegal immigrant, to jail.

The children are safe, but the story should not end there. This officer failed at a basic part of his duty: properly and carefully ensuring the safety of kids who were bystanders to a parent's actions.

Let it be a warning to every law enforcement department in North Carolina: Make sure you have clear, safe, decent procedures in place for what officers do when they confront similar situations.

On June 14, the deputy stopped an illegal immigrant and arrested her for driving without a license and driving with a false license plate. He also took her away to jail and put her under a deportation order. The deputy left her children, ages 14, 10 and 6, (two of which are American citizens) with a man they barely knew – a fellow church member who had hitched a ride with the family. The man was also an illegal immigrant and fled once the officer left.

Here's the part that makes you really angry: The kids stayed alone and exhausted on the side of the interstate until their father arrived from Maryland eight hours later.

The deputy said he asked the woman's permission to leave the children in the man's care. He said she nodded – while handcuffed – that it was OK. But here's the thing: The deputy spoke English. The woman spoke mostly Spanish. So he asked through the woman's daughter, age 14.

Who knows whether the woman even understood what was taking place?

It was wrong for the family friend to leave the kids. But the person in charge was the deputy, who should have had more decency than to make arrangements about the safety of children so casually.

Why not make plans to take them to an office, where they could have waited safely until a responsible adult was located?

There are requirements for legal residence in this country, and the law ought to be followed. Yet children have no say in what their parents do. They are bystanders – vulnerable ones. Their safety and well-being should not callously be left to chance by officers of the law, who are, after all, sworn to protect and to serve.