Immigration Officials Deported Undocumented Father Of Three Because Of His HIV Status
Last summer, U.S. District Attorney Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to stop separating children from their parents under their “zero-tolerance” policy that had begun a few months prior. However, that order did not prevent immigration officials from separating children from their parents for myriad reasons. The reasoning for continuing to separate kids from their parents (or excuse is more like it) is because officials claimed the parent was unfit to parent, they were denied asylum, or they had prior charges in their native country. Since then, more than 900 families have been affected by Trump’s anti-immigration policy, which has caused more separations between child and parent. One such case is heartbreakingly tragic because it’s a violation on multiple levels.
Three young girls were separated from their father without an explanation. However, their dad said it’s because immigration officials found out that he is HIV-positive.
In November 2018, Andrea, 14, Leiliana, 13, and Sofia, 11, and their dad crossed the U.S. border in El Paso, Texas from Honduras. They, like many undocumented immigrants, were held in cold detention centers that many refer to as iceboxes. In an interview with Public Radio International, the family said that they were held in the icebox for three days, all of them together until their dad was abruptly taken away without an explanation. The dad, Jose, said he is sure that he was separated from his daughters because of his HIV-positive status.
The father said that he brought with him two bottles of his HIV medication. When officials asked him what it was, he initially lied because “the less people know, the better.”
Immigration officials tested the medicine and found out it was to treat people with HIV. That gave Jose the inclination to believe they deported him because of that. “It has to be that because there’s no other reason,” he told PRI. His assumption was correct. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found out the reason why Jose was taken away from his daughters, and it did have to do with his HIV status.
Immigration officials told the ACLU that Jose’s HIV is a communicable disease and cannot be allowed in the country.
By definition communicable disease is an” illnesses caused by viruses or bacteria that people spread to one another through contact with contaminated surfaces, bodily fluids, blood products, insect bites, or through the air.”
Before 2010, undocumented people with HIV could not enter the U.S. but because HIV is now treatable with medication the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has removed the HIV infection from the definition of communicable disease of public health significance. Therefore immigration officials cannot use the excuse that undocumented people with HIV cannot be allowed in the U.S.
The daughters said that their father is fine because he takes his medication, so why would his HIV status prevent him from entering the country? Jose also happened to fail his credible fear interview.
Each undocumented person that enters the country and is seeking asylum status has to undergo a credible fear interview to discuss why they’re afraid to return to their country. Many undocumented people who flee Central America report they fear for their lives due to violence and persecution. Jose said police in his homeland of Honduras threatened to kill his family, but immigration officials didn’t believe him, so he was denied and deported.
Even though Jose is back in Honduras, he could still possibly be allowed to re-enter the U.S. and see his family.
Jose’s kids are part of a class-action lawsuit by the ACLU that includes more than 900 other families that have been deported after a judge had already prohibited the separation of families.
“It is shocking that the Trump administration continues to take babies from their parents,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project said according to NPR. “The administration must not be allowed to circumvent the court order over infractions like minor traffic violations.”
Just today, the same judge that forced the Trump Administration to end family separation last year ruled that 11 parents who were deported without their children can come back into the U.S. Judge Dana Sabraw said those parents were wrongfully denied asylum. According to CBS News, “The judge found that some of the migrants were probably coerced into authorizing their deportation and were given inaccurate or misleading information by immigration authorities.”
It is unclear if Jose is one of the eleven parents told they could come back and reunite with his three daughters, but we’re hoping he is.