The Trump administration was serious about the crackdown on illegal immigrants. The government strictly implemented the “zero tolerance” policy last year, which resulted to migrant parents being separated and deported, leaving behind thousands of children in their wake.
Last week, about 29 parents who were wrested from their children and deported at the height of the family separation crisis last year have been granted access to get in the US, in the hopes of getting asylum and being reunited with their loved ones.
The parents, some with children and carrying luggage appeared nervous as they crossed the pedestrian bridge. Lawyers from the immigration advocacy group Al Otro Lado accompanied them. Al Otro Lado is supported by various organizations which raised millions of dollars in aide in the midst of the government’s separation policy.
The group entered the US through the Mexicali, Mexico and Calexico, California border crossing. They were met by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents. According to the migrants’ attorneys, the group was initially told that they could not be processed because they were at capacity.
The wait lasted 10 hours. Thankfully, volunteers brought food, toys, and books for the children. CBP agents informed the group to gather their belongings so they could be processed. The families quickly complied and prepared their documents at hand to present to officials.
More than 2,700 children were separated from their families during the enforcement of the “zero tolerance” policy of the Trump administration last 2018. The policy aims to criminally prosecute and jail illegal border crossers. About 430 of the parents were deported without their children, some of whom were later sent to foster homes. Rather than bring their children back to a life of violence and dire poverty, which are mostly the reasons why the parents took chances in the U.S., they decided with heavy hearts to just leave their children behind, usually with relatives. At least 200 of the children remain separated from their parents today. Finding the whereabouts of the children was a challenge to the government, because they had not been able to track which child belonged to which parent. There were cases where parents were deported back to Central America without them knowing where their children were.
The parents proved that there is unity in diversity. In the past weeks leading to the border confrontation, they bonded in a Tijuana hotel, sharing rooms, showing each other letters from their children, pictures of foster families and report cards from Southwest Key, a company that runs shelters for migrant children. They supported each other while preparing for asylum hearings.
Come Saturday, as the immigration lawyers negotiated with the U.S. authorities, the group of parents waited at the entrance as U.S. officials deliberated on how many of them will be allowed to re-enter the U.S.
The fateful weekend ended with lawyers, volunteers, and relatives hugging and crying tears of joy as the migrant families officially entered the U.S.
“This is a huge victory for these families, but this fight isn’t over until they’re reunited with their kids,” said lawyer Erika Pinheiro, the litigation and policy director for Al Otro Lado. “These parents are now going into the black hole of CBP custody. Some could be separated again. Some could go into ICE custody.
“But, we hope that CBP and ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] do the right thing and immediately release these parents and reunite them with their kids,” she added. “If they don’t, we’re ready to keep fighting for these families.”
If you or someone you know is in need of an experienced immigration lawyer in Blacksburg, Virginia, please do not hesitate to call us at Van Doren Law. We understand immigration problems and will work to find the solution that is best for you.