And Trump & His Administration Don’t Seem to Care
The Trump administration has ripped more than 2,300 children from their parents as a result of its “zero tolerance” policy. While we await if and how the President’s change of direction on family separation plays out at the border, the urgent need right now is to locate and reunited kids with their parents.
At another hearing before a different judge, as one of my colleagues asked the agent on the stand about the whereabouts of my client’s child, the prosecutor objected to the relevance of the questions. The judge turned on the prosecutor, demanding to know why this wasn’t relevant. At one point, he slammed his hand on the desk, sending a pen flying. This type of emotional display is unheard of in federal court. I can’t understand this, the judge said. If someone at the jail takes your wallet, they give you a receipt. They take your kids, and you get nothing? Not even a slip of paper?
As the other kids cry inconsolably on an audio recording of migrant children, 6-year-old Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid can be heard pleading for someone to call her aunt — reciting the number in Spanish.
…”Jimena’s aunt said the consular official who eventually helped Jimena call her was struck by the child’s ability to stay composed under that kind of pressure. ‘Of all the children here, she’s the only one who provided information,’ the official told her. ‘Most children here aren’t able to give names, much less a phone number.’
…Jimena’s aunt says she’s worried about the other children stuck in the same predicament. “It’s really hard,” she tells Thompson. “I can’t imagine the magnitude of these children’s suffering, the psychological and emotional damage that the older and younger kids there have.”
Not far from the White House, in a foster home in Maryland, are four children who ended up alone after crossing the border with family members. Three of them are siblings, ages 15, 8 and 2, who have each other.
The other is a 5-year-old girl from Honduras who clutches a heart-shaped pillow each night as she sleeps.
…The 5-year-old girl for a while did not want to be left alone. She followed her foster mother everywhere, running errands with her. Now, she has become more comfortable being left behind.
Even so, because 5-year-olds don’t always have a strong sense of time, she often declares that tomorrow is the day she reunites with her mom.
“I’m leaving tomorrow,” she says. “I’m going with my mom tomorrow.”
“Very soon,” her host mother usually responds, “Very soon.”
Twenty-six days after being apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border with his son, a Brazilian man in detention says he has no idea when he may see his 9-year-old, who he fears is distraught and having difficulty communicating because he only speaks Portuguese.
…He and his son were taken to a detention center with many other families.
“For two days,” the father said, “all we were given were Doritos, cereal bars and juice.”
Then he was told that his son would be taken to a facility for minors, and that they’d be separated no more than five days.
“I didn’t want to scare him. I said, ‘Look son, I’ll just be gone three days, five at the most, and then I will see you again,’” said the father. “He cried and hugged me. He is a good kid. He had never been separated from me or his mom.”
It took 85 days for Olivia Caceres to retrieve her baby boy, pulled from his father’s arms at the U.S. border, a traumatic experience many more parents face to reunite with children separated under President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
Now nearly 20 months old, Mateo was returned to his family on Feb. 8 after a battle across borders, officialdom and languages. He was filthy and terrified of the dark, his mother said. Months later, the boy still screeches even as Caceres rocks him on her chest, sometimes until dawn.
…Locating Mateo took Caceres a week of phone calls to similar institutions on numbers she was given after speaking to a hotline for immigrant parents separated from their children.
Caceres called some numbers 10 times to get an answer. One official said Mateo was not entered into the system at all.
For a time, it seemed her son did not exist in U.S. bureaucracy.
On the seventh day of calls, late in November, she got through to IES.
….They would give her the information, they said, but first needed proof of parentage.
With help from a pro-bono lawyer, Caceres emailed the documents she had: Mateo’s birth certificate, a hospital form with the baby’s footprints and her Salvadoran identity card.
The director of the Texas facility demanded a DNA test.
…Over the phone, she listened to Mateo cry as he was shown the video, unable to locate the source of her voice.
“He thought she was there to pick him up,” her attorney Erika Pinheiro said. “He became very distraught after the call.”