Horror stories: ‘That’s when she fainted’

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A Los Angeles Times article with links to a collection of hand-written letters from parents in immigration detention includes this heartbreaking story, among many others:

“I asked about my son and they wouldn’t respond. I insisted on knowing and they told me, ‘Ma’am, your son is not here, he is far away and you’re being deported to your country.’”

“She said that’s when she started to cry and “pleaded with them to let me stay with my son.”

“The official told me, ‘Don’t make me use a Taser gun on you,’” she wrote.

“Friends later told her that’s when she fainted. At the time she wrote the letter, she had not heard from her son in 23 days.”

A 15-year-old Salvadoran girl recounts her three days in a cold, windowless cage, crammed in with 60 other girls, some as young as three years old. In an affidavit, she says that “agents kicked their mats daily at 4 a.m. to count them, and woke them again for meager meals,” and would not allow them to make phone calls.

According to Vox, The Trump administration just admitted it doesn’t know how many kids are still separated from their parents. Rather than complying with the court order to reunite separated families, the administration has announced plans to keep parents and children together—in detention centers, indefinitely.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar says his agency, which has custody of the children, has not yet reunited any of them with their parents. First, Azar says, parents must be vetted. Of course, parents who fled with their children after death threats and attacks may not have stopped to gather school records, health records, and other documentation.

One mother reports being asked to provide documents to prove her fitness as a parent, and also to give her fingerprints—which will take at least 20 days to process.  That means at least 20 more days without her nine-year-old son, who was taken from her in May and sent “to a children’s shelter in the Midwest.” She has not seen him since then, though they have talked on the phone.

For parents still in custody, immigration officials have a new question: Do you want to be deported with or without your children? The form leads parents to believe that they cannot get their children back unless they agree to deportation. It has no option to say you have an asylum claim or any other claim to stay in the United States. Just two options: deportation with your kids or without your kids.

Syracuse University’s amazing TRAC data research center has pried loose more data from U.S. immigration authorities. This time, it’s Border Patrol data on arrests. Despite some still-missing months, TRAC reports that the actual number of families arrested at the border in the first seven months of  FY2018 (23,162) is lower than the number of families arrested during the same period in FY 2017.  Most of those arrested at the border are adults without children, and most of those are quickly deported through “expedited removal.” The TRAC report includes this disturbing detail: “Several hundred parents were deported apparently without their children during April of this year alone.”

And a reminder that not all human rights abuses involve children: One of the plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit that won a judge’s order for release on parole of asylum applicants is Ansly Damus—an ethics teacher from Haiti—who has been locked up in Ohio for more than a year-and-a-half, and has not been allowed outside for more than a year. Damus was granted asylum by a U.S. judge—twice. The government continued to appeal, and refuses to release him. Danus fled Haiti after speaking out against a government official and then facing violent, political persecution.

“I have not breathed fresh air or felt the sun on my face, and I never know if it is cold or hot outside, if the sun is out, and if the seasons are changing,” Damus said when the lawsuit was filed.

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About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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