Detained Parents ‘Desperate’ to Know Where Children Are

The Guatemalan father last saw his 12-year-old daughter on June 5 and knows nothing about her whereabouts.

The Guatemalan mother of three sons — ages 2, 6 and 13 — is being held in Pearsall, Texas,

The Honduran mother is in detention in El Paso, Texas, and believes her son is in New York.

Two days after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered an end to separating immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, the three parents, like thousands of others, are “desperate” for information about the whereabouts and well-being of their children, their lawyer says.

No access to information

“Our clients are being held in detention facilities with no access to information about their children,” said Jerome Wesevich, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. in Brownsville, Texas. “The government has some procedures in place for supplying information. So far those have been entirely inadequate.”

The legal aid organization is suing the Trump administration over family separations on behalf of the three parents, one of two major legal challenges to the government’s now-rescinded policy.

Wesevich said Trump’s executive order, issued Wednesday, has done little to inspire hope among the separated families.

“I’d say there is not a lot of optimism,” Wesevich said. “The president’s announcement is not very understandable about what it’s going to mean in practical terms.”

​More than 2,300 children

According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 2,300 children were separated from their parents between early May when the government started a “zero-tolerance policy” on immigration enforcement and last week.

The Department of Homeland Security says it has a plan to reunite the families in the wake of Trump’s order, but it hasn’t spelled out how it intends to carry out the program.

The Pentagon said Thursday that it had accepted a request from the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency tasked with finding shelter for asylum seekers, to house as many as 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children.

With uncertainty surrounding the government’s reunification plan, legal assistance organizations are working to locate and connect separated families.

The Texas Civil Rights Project said Friday that it was seeking to reunite as many as 381 immigrants who have been separated from their children.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid said it would continue its efforts on behalf of the three Central American parents while hoping for a resolution to the plight of the more than 2,300 separated children.

“The point of our lawsuit that they do it as compassionately and quickly as possible,” Wesevich said. “By compassionate, I mean the parents are provided with information on where their children are, how they’re being cared for.”

The legal aid on Friday asked a federal court in Washington to order government agencies to provide the three parents with “immediate access to basic information about their children’s whereabouts and well-being, and frequent, meaningful opportunity to see and hear their children.”

Among other things, the three want government agencies to provide them with the exact address of where their children are being held; a description of the place they’re being held; information about whether the children have suffered any illness; and finally, the government’s best estimate on when they’ll be reunited.

The government has not responded to the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, one of the agencies named in the lawsuit, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Short phone calls

The three parents were detained and separated from their children as they crossed the border into the United States in recent weeks.

Wesevich said the father from Guatemala “does not know where (his daughter) is at all.”

The Honduran mother of a 9-year-old son has told the legal aid that she believes her son has been moved to New York.

Since their separation, the mother has been allowed to speak with her son three times for about five minutes each time, according to court filings.

“He only asks when we will see each other again and begs to be with me,” the mother is quoted in court documents as saying. “He is scared and lonely and desperate to be with me. I try to tell him everything will be OK and that I’ll see him soon but, the truth is, I don’t know what will happen with us.”

The Guatemalan mother of three sons has been allowed to speak with them for 10 minutes two times each week. 

“Of course her 2-year-old is unable to provide reliable information about his circumstances, and staff provide only general information to M.G.U., nothing specific about her children’s well-being, which causes her anguish,” according to court papers.

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