Wednesday, May 30, 2018

How ICE Treats Immigrant Children and Their Families

Daily Kos. Gabe Ortiz,
Mirian G., an asylum-seeker fleeing political unrest in Honduras, did everything she was supposed to do in her effort seeking safety in the U.S. Individuals who present themselves for inspection by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a port of entry are following the law. Mirian did just that, handing over documents to Brownsville officials showing she was the child’s mother. But when she went to sleep that night, she writes that she never realized it would be the last time she’d sleep next to her child for the next two months:

When we woke up the next morning, immigration officers brought us outside where there were two government cars waiting. They said that I would be going to one place, and my son would go to another. I asked why repeatedly, but they didn't give me a reason.

The officers forced me to strap my son into a car seat. As I looked for the buckles, my hands shook, and my son started to cry. Without giving me even a moment to comfort him, the officer shut the door. I could see my son through the window, looking back at me -- waiting for me to get in the car with him -- but I wasn't allowed to. He was screaming as the car drove away.

Under the Trump’s new policy, children will now be ripped from the arms of immigrant parents at the U.S./Mexico border—and there’s no reason for it other than to terrorize immigrant families and deter the rights of other families with credible asylum claims from coming to the U.S. for protection. “I was brought to Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas,” Mirian continues. “I could barely move or speak or think knowing that my son had never spent time without me before, and now he was alone in a separate government facility.”

The Trump administration’s horrific policy has led to a surge in the number of separated children, with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) saying it had separated 10,773 children, up from 8,886 in late April. As a result, designated detention facilities for children are nearing-capacity.

Adding to this anguish is that parents like Mirian have said they have no idea where their children have even been taken to:
The next day, I was told that he had been taken to a federally-sponsored foster home in San Antonio, Texas, but I wasn't told who was taking care of him, how long he would be there or when I would see him next. I was given a phone number to call, but I had no access to a phone.

After two days, I was transferred to Laredo Detention Center, where I was able to call my sister for help. She was able to see my son on a video phone, but I was not able to see him or receive any photos. My son is too young to speak, but at least they could have let him hear my voice. I didn't know if he would forget it.

Mirian said that “in those desperate days” when she waited, she tried to keep herself occupied with learning English, cleaning, praying, and bonding with other detained moms—“anything I could to keep my mind focused on the possibility of getting my son back and not on the pain of losing him.” Then, on April 3, she got news that would eventually help her reunite with her son:

On April 3, an immigration judge found that I had a credible asylum claim, and I was released a few weeks later. I was then able to make a request through the Office of Refugee Resettlement that my son be given back.

On May 2, my son was brought to me after spending two months and 11 days with strangers. It was an indescribable, uncontainable joy to hold him. I couldn't stop kissing his face. The entire time we were separated, my son was the reason that I held on and finally, he was there, like a vision. This May, I passed my first Mother's Day in the United States with my son.

“I am proof that parents who are legally seeking asylum are being separated from their children for seemingly no reason,” she said. “My heart goes out to the other mothers who are still aching for their children. I pray for them to have strength, and that they encounter people who can help carry their spirits, like the other women in the detention facilities did for me. In the face of such cruelty, it made all the difference.”

Soon, Congress will be considering increased funding for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—the agencies tearing apart these families—despite billions of our tax dollars already going to fund this mass deportation force. We need to be loud for Mirian, her son and many others. Contact your members of Congress and demand they defund ICE and CBP and support legislation keeping families together.

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