Two young Brazilian boys are suing the United States government for keeping them separated from their fathers for more than a month.
The two boys, ages 15 and 9, are being held at the Heartland International Children’s Rescue Center located in Chicago, Illinois, The Intercept reports. Their fathers are far away, each being held at for-profit detention centers on the border, with one in New Mexico and the other in Texas.
According to Bridget Cambria, one of the attorneys working on behalf of the two families, the kids are victims of a disturbing pattern that involves migrants making their way to ports of entry — which is what the government advises asylum seekers to do — and being turned away when they arrive. This leaves them with no other choice but to enter the country illegally.
"Most of the people that we’ve heard from, they’ve all tried to present at a port of entry and they’re denied entry,” Cambria told The Intercept. “So that’s why they’re apprehended, primarily, because they’re seeking out a border officer to ask for protection.”
The boys, who have only been identified by their initials, haven’t seen their dads since May, and only W.S.R., the 15-year-old, has had the chance to briefly speak with his father.
Although President Donald Trump signed an executive order this week to end the family separation policy, it doesn’t resolve anything for the families that have already been split up. There is no comprehensive reunification strategy in place, and therefore, kids are still being held in prison-like facilities where they endure abuse and mistreatment.
The lawsuit was filed by the nonprofit Aldea — The People’s Justice Center and the Law Office of Amy Maldonado in Chicago. They made their case on the grounds that the U.S. government cannot engage in the prolonged and unnecessary detention of children under the Flores agreement.
While Trump has been insinuating that the Flores agreement requires families to be separated at the border in his attempts to do away with it, the boys’ lawsuit argues that the 1997 federal consent decree does the opposite.
In fact, Flores prohibits the government from holding unaccompanied children or children apprehended with a family member in detention centers for more than 20 days. Families are actually supposed to be released on parole while their immigration cases proceed through the courts.
However, it is the Trump administration that insists on keeping the immigrants detained, suggesting that if families are released, they will go under the radar and re-enter U.S. communities illegally.
Furthermore, the Flores agreement requires the government to allow “contact with family members who were arrested with the minor,” which is clearly being violated as the two Brazilian boys have been restricted from communicating with their fathers.
The dad of the 9-year-old — identified as C.D.A — said he doesn’t even know where his son is being held. He followed the same steps as W.S.R.’s father to obtain the hotline number managed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement being provided to parents to reach their children. However, after calling the number “repeatedly” he was unable to connect with his son.
“He says they took his information and told him they would call him back,” the court filing says. “He has not managed to find out if he can receive calls at the detention center where he is.”
To say that this is unacceptable would be an understatement. Regardless of laws, executive orders, and federal decrees, keeping these children detained and separated from their families is a cruel and sickening crime against humanity.
Every person in this country should be ashamed that this is happening on U.S. soil, the so-called "land of the free."
Thumbnail/Banner Credit: Reuters