Mother, 9-year-old daughter stuck in legal limbo since 2017 border separation

Mother, 9-year-old daughter stuck in legal limbo since 2017 border separation

-Adelaida is 9 years old. During the past 2 1/2 years, she’s grown 6 inches
and lost her baby teeth. She learned to ride a bicycle and she was a flower girl
at a wedding. Her mother Maria has watched
all of these life moments through a cellphone. -What are you doing? -Adelaida lives in Florida,
but Maria lives in Guatemala. They were among the first
migrant families separated by the Trump
administration on July 31, 2017, long before
the government acknowledged it was separating parents
and children at the US-Mexico border. In March 2017, a few months before Maria
and her daughter’s separation, then White House Chief
of Staff John Kelly was questioned about the idea
of separating families. -Are Department of Homeland
Security personnel gonna separate the children
from their moms and dads? -I am considering exactly that. They will be well cared for
as we deal with their parents. -Adelaida was one
of 1,556 children who were part of early cases of
forced separation at the border. This group is known
as the expanded class, and those in this class were not acknowledged
in reports to Congress. And the parents in this group
were not given the option of reuniting
with their children in the US. And many of these parents
are missing since being separated
from their child. -There wasn’t a tracking
mechanism. There wasn’t full transparency
in the policies and when they were enacted, and only until now
did we find out exactly the gravity
of these family separations and how many people
they impacted. So it’s a very real possibility that these parents
will not be found, and I fear it will continue
to be a problem as the contact information
the government last had for the families
continues to grow stale and we continue to
undertake innovative efforts to make sure that every
last parent is located. -It was not until October 2019
that immigration lawyers received a list of names
of those separated in 2017, before the zero-tolerance policy
took effect. And that was only after
a court ordered the Trump administration
to do so. Maria was one of the names
on that list. And a group of lawyers
affiliated with the nonprofit called Justice in Motion found her in Guatemala
in December 2019. -The grief she is living
because of the separation from her daughter and the
strong desire to be with her. Then, all that stress, coupled with the emotional,
the psychological, because she is not living
her life to the fullest, is not having a normal life, but is waiting that
something more could happen. It seems to me
that she doesn’t feel safe. How could she move forward? -When Maria came to
the United States seeking asylum
with her daughter, she was also with her sister
Patricia and her baby. Patricia was allowed entry,
but Maria was not, even after an asylum
officer determined that Maria had protection
concerns in Guatemala. After a month in foster care, Adelaida was sent to live with
her aunt Patricia in Florida, in a two-bedroom apartment
with 11 people. Video shows the moment
Patricia picked up Adelaida at the airport and signed papers
to take her into her custody. -The reason that children
aren’t automatically sent back is because they also have rights
that need to be protected. Families are fleeing
from impossible situations. Nobody becomes a refugee
because that’s the best option. It’s because it’s the only
option, and if that means,
as a parent, making sure that your child
is safe and will not be killed if they’re forced to return
to their country of origin, then that’s a reasonable action
by that parent. -After school at 3:15 PM
in Fort Myers, Adelaida catches up
with her mother via video call on WhatsApp. When Adelaida came to the
United States at 6 years old, she didn’t know any English and couldn’t read
or write in Spanish. Today, she carries a thick
English dictionary in her purple backpack and is one of the top
students in her class. She completes
complicated sentences in both English
and Spanish. -Coordinate —
make the part of something, work together to harmonize. -She begs her mom to come
to Florida, but since Maria’s deportation, she has tried twice to return to
the United States with no luck. Now that Maria’s case
has been recognized, she might be able to petition
to return to the United States. -I went with Maria in December
in Guatemala City, and she is a case we believe was wrongly separated
from her child, as so many were, and should be able to have
the opportunity to reunify. As she’s an expanded
class member, there’s no sort of specific
pathway for a family like that necessarily to return. This is the worst
kind of trauma. It’s losing a child for folks, and many of the parents
that we contact, they’re in contact
with their children now, but, you know,
have maybe lost that expectation that they’re necessarily
ever gonna see the child again or see the child again
until they’re grown up. -Maria is currently not
receiving any representation from a lawyer
or any organization. So for now, she continues
to watch her child grow up through a screen.

local_offerevent_note February 25, 2020

account_box Arnold Mann


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