Things That Matter

This Guatemalan Mom Was Separated From Her Son At The Border After Enduring A Gunshot To The Face

In an exclusive interview with People Magazine, a 32-year-old Guatemalan woman recounts her experience fleeing her home country in August 2017 after being shot in the face at a demonstration. Not only does the woman—who goes by the false name Daniella—describe the event that catalyzed her desire to leave Guatemala, but she tells of the many months spent traveling north, and the many months spent in a detention center after reaching the border, separated from her young son.

On August 9, 2017, Daniella and her son, Carlos, were leaving their family’s house when they encountered a large protest against a new measure that would require people to pay for water. At first the protest was peaceful—but then bullets started flying through the air. Daniella and Carlos were just passing through, but a bullet had caught Daniella in two parts of her body: the left arm, and right below the eye.

“I threw my arm around Carlos to protect him—he was covered in blood, and I started to panic,” she told People. “Little did I know that the one bleeding was me.”

Because of rampant corruption in that part of Guatemala, Daniella knew that the police wouldn’t come—they were told not to interfere. So vigilant were certain members of the demonstration that Daniella’s father received a threatening call before she even made it to a hospital. The caller told her father that if they filed a report, he would kill the whole family. Later she learned that the man who had shot her lived just three blocks away from her mother. Fortunately, when she made it to the hospital, her husband—who had moved the the U.S. five years earlier to find work, sent money for the expenses.

After more than a week in the hospital, both bullets remain in Daniella’s body to this day.

“The doctor said that if they were taken out, I could be left in a vegetative state, or I could die,” she said. “To this day I still feel pain.”

After this harrowing experience, Daniella decided that it was time to follow in her husband’s footsteps and flee to the U.S. She knew that the journey would be anything but easy, but she could have never guessed how nightmarish a month lay ahead. Traveling by truck and by bus, there were many nights spent on the side of the road. When they finally made it to the Arizona border, they were not dropped off at an immigration center, as she had expected. Instead, she and Carlos were told to climb a tree, then jump from the tree to the border wall. From there, they could reach the other side.

“I told Carlos, ‘Mijo, you have to jump.’ He was so afraid that he wouldn’t move,” she said. “I looked into my son’s eyes, and I said, ‘Son, please trust me. Everything’s going to be all right.’

After they had both made it safely to the other side, they took just a few steps before the Border Patrol arrived. They were taken into custody and dropped off at “La Hielera”—The Icebox. There, Daniella was forced to sign papers she didn’t understand, and the officer who was present told her that the children would be taken to a shelter, then given up for adoption. Naturally, all the mothers were desperately frightened by this news.

Before leaving for court that same day, Daniella said goodbye to Carlos, unsure if they would ever see each other again. She told People Magazine that she held her son and said: “You’re a champion, Papa, and you’re always going to be in my heart.”

The mothers were not immediately told the whereabouts of their children. But five months after being moved to Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, Daniella learned that Carlos was in a New Jersey foster home.

A few months later, Daniella had her official court hearing. Her bail was posted at $30,000, and after filing an appeal to extend the bail deadline, Daniella was released from custody. She had been detained for 11 months.

The organization Immigrant Families Together had gathered the money for Daniella’s bail, and they helped her get back on her feet by providing her with food and clean clothes. They also took her to the airport to fly to Virginia, where Carlos had relocated to live with his uncle, her brother.

Daniella’s story isn’t unique—roughly 30,000 people are detained in the U.S. on a given day, and these numbers have seen major upticks throughout 2019. What makes Daniella’s story remarkable is her reunion with Carlos. Many families who have been separated at the border are not nearly as lucky.

While she and Carlos continue to deal with the psychological trauma of this experience, Daniella is grateful and focused on the future.

“Without the assistance from all the people that helped me, I wouldn’t be free,” said Daniella. “Now my only focus is my family, my son, starting a new life here in California . . . I don’t have to worry about being shot again or putting my son’s life in danger.”

ICE Subpoenas Denver Officials Requesting Info On Undocumented Migrants But State Lawyer Says They’re Not Valid

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ICE Subpoenas Denver Officials Requesting Info On Undocumented Migrants But State Lawyer Says They’re Not Valid

@workpermitcom / Twitter

It is the right, under the constitution, of state and local governments, including law enforcement, to refuse to cooperate with federal law. In other words, if the federal government issues a mandate, local officials do not have to comply. That is why some cities abide by Sanctuary policies to protect undocumented immigrants that are being persecuted by government agencies such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, ICE isn’t bowing down to the constitution and is taking matters to the courts. 

Earlier this week, Homeland Security has issued a subpoena to Denver law enforcement to get information on three Mexican nationals and one Honduran who were previously in custody. 

“Since we have no cooperation at the Denver justice center, we are modifying our tactics to produce information,” Henry Lucero, deputy executive associate director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, said, according to the Associated Press

According to the AP, Denver officials have 14 days to respond to the subpoena in three of the cases, but in the other, they have three days to respond. ICE officials allege that all four foreign nationals have been in jail for sexual assault and child abuse and have been previously deported.

“In the past, we had full support. We collaborated in the interest of public safety,” Lucero added. “This is a drastic change. And one ICE is forced to do and puts other agencies on notice that we don’t want this to happen. We want to protect the public.”

Officials at the Denver mayor’s office said they would not comply with the demands of ICE because the paperwork issued by ICE are not proper subpoenas but rather administrative forms and not legal document signed by a judge. 

“The documents appear to be a request for information related to alleged violations of civil immigration law,” Chad Sublet, Senior Counsel to the Department of Safety in Denver, wrote, according to Time magazine. “Based on these facts, we are denying your request.”

Sublet also said that Denver officials have collaborated with ICE on information previously with other requests. He showed documentation that proves Denver responded to “88 requests by ICE between October and December of last year.”

Despite the support of local officials of Sanctuary policies, the majority of those cities have been struck by ICE as they have conducted numerous raids there, including in Denver. 

Cities including Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago all have protections in place for undocumented people, but that has only fueled ICE to conduct raids there and elsewhere. Last year in September, ICE conducted raids in Colorado and Wyoming and, within four days, arrested 42 undocumented immigrants. 

“It is our belief that state sanctuary policies [do] not keep the community safe,” John Fabbricatore, the acting director of the Denver ICE field office, said last year, according to KDVR news. 

“We don’t believe deportation is ever the answer to what criminal activity might be going on,” Jordan García, with the Colorado Rapid Response Network, said in response to the raids

In 2017, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock signed a law that stated law officials would not comply with ICE in any capacity. 

The Denver Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act was first signed unanimously by the Denver City Council, which was then signed by Mayor Hancock. The mandate “bans city officials from asking an arrested individual’s immigration status.”

While some city officials have prohibited the collaboration between local officials and federal agencies, that has not stopped some from working with ICE to arrest undocumented immigrants. 

Last year in September, the Milwaukee Police Department assisted ICE agents in the detainment of a local resident who was undocumented. Even though Milwaukee does not have a Sanctuary policy in place, Police Chief Morales had previously said a year before they would not collaborate with ICE. 

“I promised to bring back the public trust,” Morales said in 2018. “My job is to bring (back) trust from the community and work with them; my job is not to go out and enforce those types of laws.”

Those statements are why people were outraged that local Milwaukee officers assisted ICE in the detainment of an undocumented father. 

“Chief Morales is gonna love to see police collaborating with ICE,” a bystander said last year as he witnessed ICE and local police working together during that arrest. The Mayor of Milwaukee and police stood on the same grounds that police would “not inform federal immigration officials of whereabouts or behavior of any suspect illegal immigrant.” However, that’s only if a person has never been arrested for a serious crime. 

READ: Woman Records Scene Inside Family Car As ICE Pulls Husband Out While Daughters Cry And Scream

Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

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Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

dr.giammattei / Instagram

Tuesday marked a new era of leadership in Guatemala as the Latin country swore in Alejandro Giammattei, a conservative doctor and former prison system director from the right-wing Vamos party. The 63-year-old won the presidency on his fourth attempt back in August with bold promises of changing a corrupt government and restoring the rule-of-law in city streets. 

“Today, we are putting a full stop on corrupt practices so they disappear from the face of this country,” Giammattei said at his swearing-in ceremony that had a five-hour delay.

His ceremony somewhat overshadowed by delays and protests against ex-President Jimmy Morales, who for four years dodged accusations of corruption. The scene of protestors throwing eggs and voicing anger at the outgoing administration was a reminder of the displeasure against the country’s deep-seated political corruption. It’s also a key reason why many are looking to Giammattei to bring change to the struggling country. 

As Giammattei takes office, there are questions on what his presidency will mean to Guatemala in the short and long term as issues over the future of an asylum deal with the United States comes into focus. 

One of the biggest issues confronting Guatemala and one that Giammattei will have to address early is the Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA) that was signed by Morales last July with the U.S. government. The agreement, which was highly opposed in Guatemala, lets U.S. immigration officials send Honduran and Salvadoran migrants that are requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexican border to apply for protection here instead. There is now increasing skepticism as reports say that the U.S. wants to expand the deal to include Mexican asylum seekers as well.

Last year, there were many Guatemalans that were part of a 3,000 migrant caravan that made its way up from Latin America to the U.S. The caravan consisted of people that were looking to claim asylum and became a symbol of the growing migration crisis at the southern border. President Trump frequently attacked the caravan and eventually threatened to impose tariffs on Guatemala if it didn’t agree to the asylum deal.

According to the Guatemalan Migration Institute, “as of Friday, 128 Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers had been sent as part of the agreement,” with only a limited number actually applying for asylum there and others returning home. Giammattei has previously said that he’s willing to make changes to the agreement but on Tuesday said he would revisit details later. 

The country, one of Latin America’s poorest nations, is a key part of President Trump’s plan to curb illegal immigration and asylum claims. mostly from those coming to the U.S. Southern border. The issue for many living in Guatemala is how to let those seeking asylum when itself has become a major source of U.S. bound migrants. 

Poverty levels have only grown in the last 20 years and income inequality levels continue to be a big problem in the country. 

One of the big platform issues that Giammattei ran his campaign on was helping the shorten income inequality gap and poverty levels that have only grown in the last 20 years. Fifty-nine percent of Guatemalan citizens live below the poverty line and almost 1 million children under the age of 5 are believed to live with chronic malnutrition, according to the AP. 

There is also the rampant problem of street violence and cartel gangs that have had a major effect on the daily lives of many in the country. Giammattei plans to address this with reforms that include designating “street gangs as terrorist groups.”

“This is the moment to rescue Guatemala from the absurd. It is the moment to combat corruption and malnutrition,” Giammattei said on Tuesday in his first address to the country as president. “There is no peace without security, I will present a law that aims to declare street gangs for what they are – terrorist groups.”

There is hope that Giammattei will turn a new page in Guatemala that will see change come to all in the country that has faced uncertainty for years. But only time will tell if this is indeed new leadership or business as usual.

“We will bring back the peace this country so dearly needs,” Giammattei said. “We will govern with decency, with honourability, and with ethical values.”

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