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Opinion

April 26, 2018

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Taken

At this very instant, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is depriving an 18-month-old child of his mother, separating the two in immigration detention. Mirian, a 29-year-old mother from Honduras, is currently detained in T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas, while her toddler is kept in a facility in San Antonio, some 120 miles away.

Their ordeal has already lasted two months.

They are just one of hundreds of families who are subjected to ICE’s brutal tactic of forcibly separating immigrant parents and children and on whose behalf the ACLU has brought a national class-action lawsuit. On Friday, The New York Times reported new data, estimating that more than 700 children have been taken from their parents since October, including more than 100 children under the age of 4.

Fleeing government violence in Honduras, Mirian came to the US with her young son on Feb 20, 2018, presenting herself to immigration authorities and asking for asylum. During her interview, Mirian gave the immigration officers her Honduran ID card and several identification documents for her child, including his birth certificate and his hospital birth record, both of which list her as his mother.

However, once the interview was over, the officers said that they were going to take her son away from her. She repeatedly asked why they couldn’t stay together, but she was not given a reason. The officers then made her carry her 18-month-old child outside where a government car was waiting. As she placed him in the car seat, he began to cry. Without giving her a moment to comfort him or say goodbye, the officers shut the door and drove away.

Mirian’s story comes to light on the heels of another highly publicized separation at the hands of the Trump administration. For four months, ICE forcibly separated a Congolese mother, Ms L, and her seven-year-old child in facilities 2,000 miles apart. They were only reunited following public outcry and the ACLU’s lawsuit on their behalf, which has since expanded into the national class action.

And in fact, since their reunion, the Trump administration has made a coordinated effort to characterize what happened as an isolated incident. In recent weeks, leadership from the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, and ICE all appeared before Congress and characterized family separation as a rare occurrence.

CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan called family separation a “very rare occurrence,” which is “based on admitted or clear fraud from CBP perspective.”

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen admitted that the reunion of the Congolese mother and her child “took too long,” but she maintained that the agencies’ standard was “in every case, keep that family together.” She further maintained that when immigration authorities separate parents and children, it’s done because “the law tells them to” and it’s in the “interest of the child.”

ICE Executive Associate Director Matthew T. Albence, who oversees enforcement and removal operations, assured Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard that ICE’s “concern always is the health and wellbeing of that child”. This defense falls apart very quickly when looking at the facts, the administration’s statements, and the Constitution.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘ICE Separates 18-Month-Old From Mother for Months’.

Courtesy: Commondreams.org

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