Despite a federal order to reunite the families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under President Donald Trump’s draconian “zero-tolerance” policy, his administration reportedly deported 463 parents from the country without their children.
At the time, the federal government said the parents who were deported “had the opportunity to bring their kid with them, but willingly left without them.”
However, according to the recent court filings by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), parents who waived their right to reunite with their children were either pressurized or misled by the authorities into signing the deportation forms.
“They showed me a form and told me that I needed to sign the form so that I could be reunified with my son,” a Honduran asylum seeker said in testimony filed in U.S. District Court in San Diego.
What’s even more alarming, a number of these parents do not even recall signing the documents.
“Many of these individuals indicated that they felt coerced into relinquishing their rights,” American Immigration Council attorney Aaron Reichlin-Melnick wrote in a declaration. “Still others appeared totally unaware that they had done so. Indeed, some individuals were adamant that they had signed a paper that said they chose to be reunited with their children.”
Some of the parents were given less than 5 minutes to read and sign the form that they barely understood, while others were told they had no other option except signing it. Moreover, according to attorney Luis Cruz, none of these immigrants were allowed to speak to their children before making the decision, which led to even more confusion and uncertainty.
According to a declaration signed by attorney Sofia Reive, a father from Guatemala was only given two choices: he either gets deported with his daughter, or without her. Since the authorities did not allow him to reunite with his child in the U.S., he decided to go with what he thought would be better for his little girl.
“He told me it is not safe for his daughter to return to Guatemala due to extreme and specific threats from a powerful and dangerous man who has demanded to 'buy' her,” the lawyer said. “He signed the document because he felt pressured to do so and because he felt like he had no other choice. This entire interaction lasted approximately one minute.”
It is important to note the Trump administration likely has no way to track down the parents who were deported without their kids, which means hundreds of children currently detained in ICE facilities don’t even know their mothers and fathers are not in the U.S. anymore and don’t have any way to contact them altogether.
It’s a terrifying and heartbreaking situation, yet the government doesn’t seem to care much about the plight of those who risked their lives crossing the border with meager supplies, hoping to give their children a better future.
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