Most of us can only imagine the pain, terror and uncertainty caused when immigrant mothers seeking asylum in the United States are forcibly separated from their children. CNN has details in letters from some of the mothers who have since been reunited with their children, but who say their nightmare is not over.
“My children were far from me and I didn’t know if they were okay, if they were eating or sleeping. I have suffered a lot,” wrote a mother identified as Elena. “ICE harmed us a lot psychologically. We can’t sleep well because my little girl thinks they are going to separate us again. … I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone.”
The comments come from letters written by parents being held at the Dilley detention center in Texas. The Immigration Justice Campaign provided the letters to CNN as part of their pro bono project to give legal help to migrant families being held in custody.
In June, a Honduran woman seeking asylum in the US and her five-year-old son were forcibly separated at the Mexican border. A pro bono lawyer, Jodi Goodwin, helped reunite them after they spent a month apart. The Atlantic has produced a documentary called The Separated that shows the chaos and trauma caused by migrant families being torn apart.
After traveling to South Texas to see firsthand how the Trump administration’s family separation policy was affecting migrants seeking to enter the US, American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass promised to help reunite families and make sure they received due process. Now, new ABA President Robert Carlson is joining the effort, going to South Texas himself to work pro bono to help asylum seekers as part of the ABA’s commitment.
“The [ABA’s] policy supports protection of our borders, but in a fair and humane way,” says Carlson, of Corette Black Carlson & Mickelson in Butte, Montana. “We want to make sure that people get the due process that they’re entitled to under the Constitution.”
Read more about the ABA’s work to reunite migrant families here.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order today to try to stem criticism of his family separation policy. He has offered an unacceptable alternative: imprisoning mothers and fathers with their children. The president is also asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request that a court modify and effectively dismantle the Flores settlement. That settlement protects children held by the government and sets forth standards of care.
The following is a statement from Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council:
“Today’s executive order does nothing to change the fact that the Trump administration is attacking families and criminalizing asylum seekers. The zero-tolerance policy is cruel and unnecessary. We should not have to choose between separating parents from their children and expanding the shameful practice of imprisoning families. Our experience defending families in detention, first in Artesia, New Mexico and now in Dilley, Texas, has taught us that family detention is never humane.”