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Home | Tag Archives: family separation

Tag Archives: family separation

In El Paso Shelter, a Group of Undocumented Immigrant Parents Now Know Where Their Children Are

On Monday afternoon at a migrant shelter in this border city, Mario, an undocumented Honduran immigrant who was separated from his daughter, struggled to tell reporters how all he wanted to do was wish her happy birthday and ask for her forgiveness.

On Thursday, he said he’s had the chance to do both after finally learning his 10-year-old daughter’s location: She’s somewhere in El Paso, he said, and she’s safe.

“I said, ‘Please forgive me for letting them separate us,’” he said. “But she’s a smart girl, and she understood that the most important thing is that we’re going to be able to be together.”

Mario was one of 32 undocumented parents who had been separated from their children after being apprehended or turning themselves in to federal border officers under a zero-tolerance policy on undocumented border crossers that’s led to more than 2,300 children being separated from their parents.

Ruben Garcia, the director of the El Paso-based Annunciation House where the migrants were received, said the group was among the first to be released after President Donald Trump reversed course and halted family separations through an executive order.

Some, like Mario, didn’t even know where their children were after arriving at the shelter.

Garcia said about a dozen parents from that group remain at the shelter, and all of them now know where their children are — although not all have been able to speak to them. Some of the other parents are trying to connect with family members in the United States who were likely named the children’s designated sponsors when the families were caught and separated.

But before he can be reunited with his daughter, Mario — who asked to be identified only by his first name to avoid the possibility of jeopardizing his asylum claim — needs the Honduran government to fax a copy of his birth certificate to the legal representatives who are helping him while he’s at the shelter.

Garcia said the birth certificate is one of the documents that the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which has custody of the children, asks to see before approving reunifications, but those aren’t returned to the parents after they are released from federal custody.

“And so when you talk to ORR, you say, ‘ICE took my birth certificate,’ and they’ll say that ICE and ORR don’t talk to each other,” Garcia said. “It’s just a problematic system.”

A spokesperson with the ICE field office in El Paso said the agency does not keep identifying documents once an immigrant is released from its custody.

Garcia said most of the parents who were apprehended and separated will likely be reunited with their children wherever the designated sponsor is located because that’s a faster option than starting the process over to bring the parent and child together.

To locate their children, the parents have been reaching out to the designated sponsors, who then have to connect them with the ORR social worker in charge of the child’s case.

They call the [sponsor] and he or she gives the parent the name and phone number of the social worker,” Garcia said. “That doesn’t tell me where my kid is, that just tells me who the social worker is. I call the social worker, and that’s when I find out my kid is in Chicago or New York or wherever.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Cornyn Calls on Democrats to Join Effort to Keep Families Together, Enforce the Law

WASHINGTON – Monday on the floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) discussed his recent trip to the Texas-Mexico border and the Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act, legislation to ensure immigrant families can stay together while they await their court proceedings.

Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s floor remarks are below, and video can be found above.

“I traveled there to tour two facilities in Brownsville, along with Senator Cruz, that housed young children, some very young, some up to 18, just under 18 years of age, that are being sheltered after their parents crossed illegally into the United States.”

“After touring these facilities in Brownsville and meeting with various federal agency officials and nongovernmental organizations and local elected officials at the Weslaco border patrol station, what we learned is the situation is far more complex than meets the eye and that many of the narratives that have been spun about what’s happening at the border are just simply false.”

“The federal officials at the Weslaco border patrol station went through the step-by-step process of what happens to immigrant families when they are apprehended at the border, what happens when they’re detained, and what happens when their cases are heard in a court.”

“Treating families with compassion by allowing them to remain together and enforcing our immigration laws don’t have to be mutually exclusive. And our bill will ensure that they aren’t. It will allow children to stay with their parents in a safe facility while they await their court proceedings to see if they perhaps are eligible for some sort of immigration benefit like asylum.”

“Our bill would also set mandatory standards for care in family residential centers where immigrant families are placed and keep children safe by requiring they are removed from the care of any individual that presents a danger to them.”

“What happens now that kids have been placed apart from their parents? Our bill requires the administration to take steps to reunify as many families as possible.”

“Some have falsely claimed that our bill promotes indefinite detention of families. But that’s certainly not the intention. Our bill does not mandate the Department of Homeland Security detain parents and their kids indefinitely.”

“On this issue, I think her bill has a number of problems. In fact, there’s a huge question of what sort of enforcement, if any, would be permitted under her bill. In effect, this bill would make it impossible to criminally prosecute parents for crossing the border illegally unless their child is able to go into Department of Justice custody with the parents. This bill doesn’t even specify where the families should be held.”

“That’s a big problem, Mr. President, because children shouldn’t go to jails and prisons run by the Department of Justice with hardened, potentially violent criminals… That’s why essentially the bill advocates for catch and release.”

“Both our bills allow for families to be kept together while they are waiting for court proceedings, but only one of them, the Tillis bill, also permits enforcement of our laws.  That seems to be the choice that our Democratic colleagues have made.”

“If we come together, we can resolve the situation swiftly and ensure these children are kept with their families.”

***

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.

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