Things That Matter

Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse: A 3-Year-Old Was Told To Pick Which Parent To Be Separated From

This year has seen so much of what we would have never even imagined just a little over four years ago. Thanks to the strict and cruel policies under our current presidential administration, we’ve seen families separated from their underaged children at border stops, kids held in cages and women sexually assaulted and harassed by officers of the United States government. Xenophobia and racism are on the extreme uptick and just when you think we couldn’t stoop any lower as a country, a new report sets a new bar.

Sadly, the latest low involves a child that is just 3-years-old.

Parents from Honduras have recently accused an agent at a Border Patrol holding facility of asking their 3-year-old daughter to decide which one would be deported.

In a recent interview with NPR, a woman by the name of Tania said that she and her husband, who share three children together, experienced the bizarre abuse of their child in a holding facility in El Paso Texas. While detained, an agent told the family, which is from Honduras, that one of the parents would be sent to Mexico while the other would be kept in the United States with their three children. The two parents also have a 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son.

“The agent asked her who she wanted to go with, mom or dad,” Tania told NPR through an interpreter. “And the girl, because she is more attached to me, she said mom. But when they started to take [my husband] away, the girl started to cry. The officer said, ‘You said [you want to go] with mom.'”

Tania says that she and her husband spent last week attempting to make deals with Border Patrol so that their family would not be separated.

Tania and her husband, Joseph, were working with a doctor who examined the 3-year-old, named Sofi, who had been given the burden of the harsh decision. The parents say that they pleaded with agents to not separate the family.

According to NPR Tania and her family came to the U.S. after they witnessed the murder of her mother. The news outlet reported last week that the family was sent back to Juárez, Mexico after crossing into El Paso in April and became part of the Trump administration program called Migrant Protection Protocols, which is also known as “remain in Mexico” and requires Central American migrants to wait in northern Mexico cities while their immigration cases are sorted out by the courts. More often than not, these cities are among the most dangerous in the country.

On top of everything, Sofi has an extreme heart condition.

According to NPR, Linda Rivas, the family’s lawyer and an employee of  Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center presented evidence from a Mexican health clinic that Sofi had suffered a heart attack. Stunned by the revelation Immigration Judge Nathan Herbert said that he didn’t have the authority to remove the family from MPP. However, he did ask the Department of Homeland Security lawyer to consider of Rivas’ evidence.

According to NPR, Sofi was examined by a doctor last week. The doctor told Border Patrol agents that she had had a serious heart condition and needed to stay in the country.

Tania told NPR that the agents “spoke to me at around 3 or 3:30 p.m., and they told me: ‘Sign here, because we are giving you and your children permission.’ And I said, ‘I came with the children’s father,’ and he said, ‘Not him. Only you and your children.’ And the doctor said it’s important for the family to stay [together], and even the doctor said ‘They entered as a family and they have to leave as a family.'”

According to the report, the agent had already made up their mind about the separation and it was then that Sofi was asked which parent she wanted to go with. According to Tania, the doctor who examined Sofi told her not to allow the agent to ask the little girl to make the decision, “because they don’t have the right to ask a minor.”

Eventually, the doctor was able to make a case for the family to be kept together to another agent. Fortunately, the family was released last Friday, together, to an El Paso migrant shelter.

One Day After A Texas Sheriff Called Undocumented Immigrants ‘Drunks,’ His Son Is Arrested For Public Intoxication

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One Day After A Texas Sheriff Called Undocumented Immigrants ‘Drunks,’ His Son Is Arrested For Public Intoxication

A Texas sheriff is eating his words after his bigotted comments came back to bite him in the worst way.

A day after Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn referred to undocumented immigrants as “drunks” who would “run over” children, his own son was reportedly arrested on charges of public intoxication. It has also been revealed that his son Sergei Waybourn has been arrested before. In 2018 he was charged with assault and in recent years he was arrested for trespassing and theft.

Sheriff Waybourn’s comments sparked controversy when he spoke against undocumented immigrants at a press conference in Washington.

Last Thursday, the sheriff spoke at the conference alongside Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence. Speaking in response to a ruling by a federal California judge made last month that imposed restrictions on ICE’s use of “detainers,” Waybourn underlined the consequences of releasing illegal immigrants with DWI and other crimes.

U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr.’s decision barred ICE from using online database searches to find and detain people based. Recently, the ACLU stated that since 2008, 2 million US citizens have been illegally detained because of such searches.

Waybourn pointed to his charge of inmates to give examples of high rates of repeat offenders. “If we have to turn them loose or they get released, they’re coming back to your neighborhood and my neighborhood,” Waybourn said according to New York Post. “These drunks will run over your children, and they will run over my children.”

After his comments, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens called for Waybourn’s resignation.

According to Dallas Morning News, Domingo Garcia said Waybourn ought to “resign and apologize for his bigoted comments immediately.”

In response, Waybourne said his comments had been taken out of contexts and his office released a statement saying that “Sheriff Waybourn was not referring to all legal or illegal immigrants when making his comments about DWI/DWI repeat offenders. He was speaking toward the charges of DWI and DWI repeat offender in the context of illegal immigration.”

In response to the news of his son’s arrest, the sheriff said he is “deeply saddened by Sergei’s choices.”

According to WFAA, he said that “It has been many years since he disassociated from our family. We, along with many family members have made efforts over the years to help him – all to no avail. It is always sad when drugs take control of a person’s life. His choices and actions have lead to this situation.”

More Than 700 Women Have Disappeared From A Texas ICE Detention Center And Their Lawyers Don’t Know Where They Are

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More Than 700 Women Have Disappeared From A Texas ICE Detention Center And Their Lawyers Don’t Know Where They Are

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Across a network of more than 200 migrant prisons and municipal migrant jails, the US government is detaining roughly 18,000 people at any given moment. And that’s not including the more than 12,000 minors who are held in other facilities under the supervision of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s.

And amid this network of for-profit private prisons and government-ran detention centers, migrants are constantly being shuffled around – often without little notice to their lawyers and even family.

This time, the agency is accused of moving more than 700 women without notifying their lawyers, family, or anyone else.

According to attorneys from the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), ICE has moved more than 700 women out of a Texas detention center. And ICE gave their lawyers zero way of locating them, which is especially damning considering many of the women face serious medical conditions.

Starting on Sept. 20, the women being held at the Karnes County Residential Center were sent to other centers around the country so that the facility could be used to detain families. More than two weeks later, their lawyers from RAICES have no idea where the majority of these women are being held, and they can’t find any updated information in ICE’s online detainee tracking system.

Many of these women have serious medical conditions and not being able to advocate for their health could have fatal consequences.

“I’m really fearful that their conditions could worsen,” Meza said. “I don’t want them to be in another ICE press release about death in detention.” 

The situation highlights a common problem for migrants in ICE custody: They can be transferred between facilities with little notice and yet their new locations are not promptly updated in the system. If their existing lawyers and family members can’t find them, they may have to go through their cases without legal representation, especially in remote areas where legal counsel is sparse. And those with serious health issues could die if advocates who don’t know where their clients were transferred are unable to fight for their right to medical treatment. 

According to ICE, advocates shouldn’t worry because “adequate medical care is being provided to all detainees.”

An ICE official told HuffPost that “Comprehensive medical care is provided to all individuals in ICE custody” adding that staffing includes registered nurses, licensed mental health providers, a physician and access to 24-hour emergency care. The official acknowledged that the women at Karnes had been transferred to other facilities, but did not explain why their locations were not showing up in the online system.

But given the deaths that have occurred in ICE facilities and the overall cruelty towards people in their custody, few people trust ICE’s ability to care for migrants.

At Karnes, some of the immigrants were allegedly being denied lifesaving care, such as cancer and HIV treatment, and that suicidal patients were not receiving psychiatric counseling. One woman with cancer in her uterus said she had not received medical treatment for more than two months. Another immigrant, who is HIV positive, said she was not getting her medication or being evaluated by a doctor, even as her symptoms worsened.

The lack of medical care in immigrant detention facilities is well-established. Eight immigrants have died in ICE detention centers this year, and six minors have died in Border Patrol centers, in many cases because they didn’t receive proper medical help for their illnesses. 

Technically there’s no legal requirement for ICE to inform detainees’ lawyers that they are being transferred. 

According to Andrea Meza, Director of Family Detention Services for RAICES, ICE is not at all required to inform anyone when a detainee is transferred to a new location.

There is one exception: ICE is mandated to provide notice of transfer for Salvadorans, per the Orantes Settlement Agreement — but only Salvadorans.) Otherwise, Meza says, “There’s not really anything that requires them to give us notice as to where our clients are.” 

But even if ICE did update the platform used to track migrants in their custody, lawyers said it’s rarely that reliable.

It can take up to a few weeks for someone who is transferred to a new facility to show up in the system, which means families are often left wondering whether their loved ones have been deported back to life-threatening situations in their home countries.

“I think FedEx does a better job of tracking its packages than ICE does of tracking the people it detains,” Lincoln-Goldfinch, an immigrant rights attorney told HuffPo.  

Of the women RAICES has been able to locate, some are being housed at a private prison in Mississippi that the Justice Department found so poorly-managed it issued a scathing 65-page report detailing its problems. The Federal Bureau of Prisons to ended its contract with the prison earlier this year, but now immigrant women are being sent there.