Family from Michoacán, México.
El Paso 2019
A story by Karina B. Breceda
Entry No.1 July 16,2019
Father, Mother and Son arrived at Casa de Refugiado midday but it wasn’t until late afternoon that the volunteers noticed something different in the section that was often and thankfully marked “no”. The section that shouldn’t exist but is there to the testament of the anti-immigrant Trump policies and a small record in history that family separations happened.
For the “T” family under the section asking “Are any family members detained” was the words daughters 2. The volunteers and I called them to the office optimistically hoping that their missing daughters would appear in the ICE locator website. The Dad told us his story, every detail as if trying to processes a loss. We learned he fled in the night wounds still on his body from the cartels who kidnapped him and had held him for days. His family carried only the clothes on their backs and the documents they could find. We learned it didn’t matter that he followed all the legal steps or that he had proof of his granddaughter’s adoption papers. Their three-year-old was still separated from them. Their eldest 20 years old was also separated to a different detention center. With the migrant protection protocols enacted we feared she was returned to Mexico. We also learned that all we could do that day was listen. There is no clear avenue for finding someone’s child. Children aren’t recorded in the ICE locator. In the many detention centers all over the US holding thousands of children were do you start?
Entry No.2 July 17, 2019
There was progress this day. Some of the volunteers living at CDR were able to find a reunification package online. The process just highlighted how the system is set up against them. It took two native English speakers calling various departments, pouring through several websites and broken links to be able to download the correct pdf. The files were so massive a second more up to date computer was needed. The inefficiency of all of this was despairing. Once these papers were filed, they couldn’t be emailed, no they had to be snail mailed or faxed. All of these documents were simply to begin the process of connecting the parents with a case worker.
Entry No.3 July 20,2019
The Family gets a call from the social worker. He assures them all he needs from them is a notarized letter from the biological mom that they have parental rights over their daughter. He refused to acknowledge that he did or didn’t have their little girl or what part of the country that might be. The family needed to head out that day to Washington to have their asylum case heard. It was a difficult decision to leave their eldest who by then we knew was at the El Paso detention center on Montana St. They knew putting their asylum case on the line might later jeopardize hers.
Entry No.4 August 5,2019
The family has settled in Washington with their sponsors. Neither daughter has been reunited to them. The father calls me hopeful like every week since, because of continual promises by everyone from DHS to the CPS that their daughter will be returned to them that week. They only need this document or that evaluation or this clearance from so and so supervisor. Every week it’s the same. They have to prove to the state that their daughter is safe with them not the other way around. The dad asks them not to put the daughter on the phone with him that it will just make her cry. Jose doesn’t listen. He still connects them over the phone during one of their phone call meetings. Little girl cries for her dad like he was warned.
Entry No.5 August 11,2019
We get a brief call from in the detention center. The oldest daughter is abruptly being transferred overnight. One of the detainees was friends with her and called us on her behalf. She was worried for her because she didn’t know where they took her. Nobody else being transferred was informed of where they were being taken to either. Some think Louisianan others have heard rumors of California.
Entry No.6 August 12, 2019
We get a call from her. She is in California. But she’s ready to give up, she wants to sign the deportation papers. Conditions are much worse there. Thousands to a place and little food. Her family is encouraging her to go back and we understand. There is no guarantee that if she holds off for the months that she will be granted asylum. Its time off of a life.
Entry No.7 August 15,2019
The oldest daughter has a hearing in a week to see if she gets granted asylum. She says that if they choose to extend her detention, she would sign self-deportation papers. We get her in contact with a migrant support group in Cali. She at least won’t be alone. The dad says that Jose the social worker assures him that there is no more paper work to be done on the family’s part, the daughter just needs to be evaluated by a psychologist before being returned to them. The cost of suffering of an entire family at the hands of our US policies; All there is left to do is hope, pray and fight for this to be over soon, for them and the hundreds of other children who have been separated.