After being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Samira Hakimi and her two young children were first held in the South Texas Family Detention Center. They were later transferred to the Karnes County Residential Center outside San Antonio where they have spent most of the past six months. The Afghan national and her children should have been released within three weeks of their arrival, according to a federal ruling. Still, they remain locked up.
Over time, Hakimi became depressed, and earlier this month, she decided to try to take her own life. She thought, perhaps, officials would free her children if she was out of the picture, HuffPost reports.
Most families are released from detention within three weeks. Samira Hakimi has been detained for six months- https://t.co/y3jSXSz7hO— ACLU of Arizona (@ACLUaz) May 26, 2017
Hakimi's journey started in Afghanistan where her family established a high school and multi-branch private university. Because the family-run institutions offered more than half of their scholarships to women and their educational model made use of Western curricula, the Taliban began to target the family in 2013, forcing them to move to the university campus and hire private security.
In 2016, Hakimi and her family fled to Mexico with her brother-in-law and his pregnant wife, who were also being threatened. In December of the same year, they crossed into the U.S. through a legal port of entry and asked for asylum. The two men were separated from their wives, who were then sent to a family detention center in Texas. Hakimi's sister-in-law and her newborn remain in the same facility as she and her children.
Despite passing the first step toward applying for asylum, ICE failed to free them, going against the agency's customs. Generally, when families pass what's known as “credible fear” interviews, they are freed so they may pursue their cases in immigration court, but Hakimi and her children were never given this opportunity.
“Here, no one talks to us,” Hakimi stated. “They don’t give us the reason why I’m detained in here. I never thought that I would be detained here for such a long time.”
As Hakimi lost hope, she became deeply depressed. Her condition worsened over time, and nothing the facility attempted made the problem go away. She told staff that therapy and medication weren't helping and that her depression was only taking a toll on her because of her family's situation.
According to Amy Fisher, the policy director for RAICES — a nonprofit that offers detained families legal services — Hakimi was “really depressed. And she went into this thought process, when she was really low, thinking, ‘Well, if I’m no longer here, maybe my children can be free.’”
According to Luis Zayas, the dean of social work for the University of Texas at Austin, this issue is more common in family detention facilities because these people “aren’t prepared to be there because they’re not criminals.”
While ICE failed to respond to reporters' requests for comment on this case, it's clear that Hakimi and her family aren't being treated fairly. In a country where certain immigration policies are based solely on fear, this Afghan family's story doesn't come as a surprise.
How many more innocent families like Hakimi's must have their rights violated before the U.S. government at least reviews its policies?
As asylum-seekers who have passed their credible fear interviews, the Hakimis must be allowed their freedom so they can make their case before court, and yet, they remain in detention. If anything, this is a blatant violation of U.S. law.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters