Things That Matter

What You Need To Know About The Policy That Is Separating Undocumented Children At US Border

TIME / YouTube

Over the last six weeks, 2,000 children have been separated from their parents at the U.S. border due to a new policy enacted by the Trump administration. The policy effects families legally arriving at the border seeking asylum. These children are taken into custody and placed in “detention facilities”, which often lack adequate bedding and are overcrowded. The Trump administration already has 10,773 immigrants under the age of 18 in custody due to its “zero tolerance” policy.

How is this all happening and why are children being separated?

Immigration officials can do this because of a “zero-tolerance” policy publicly announced in May. The policy allows the separation of families by transferring parents into criminal custody and reclassifying the children as “unaccompanied” minors. Parents are then taken to federal criminal prisons while the children are taken to separate housing centers. According to Vox, it’s more expensive to keep parents in detention while children are under the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) care than to keep them together in one detention facility.

The Trump administration is falsely claiming that this is them following a law created by Democrats. There is no such law.

The maximum time a separated child is supposed to be held at these detention centers is 72 hours, but that hasn’t been the case.

DHHS says most detention centers are at 95 percent capacity because of insufficient space for the children. Also adding to the overcrowding is the process to place a child with a sponsor that takes an average of 45 days. This has led to the need for these “tent cities” where separated children are then placed with relatives or sponsors.

There are currently over 10,773 immigrant children being housed in centers across the United States.

Kenneth Wolfe, a DHHS spokesman, told the LA Times that the government currently has contracts with 100 shelters in 17 states with 27 of those shelters in Arizona, California and Texas. Southwest Key, an Austin-based nonprofit, is among the nation’s largest child migrant shelter providers, currently housing 5,129 immigrant children in those three states. According to The Washington Post, these facilities are currently close or full to capacity.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he opposes the separation of undocumented immigrant families at U.S. borders.

Ryan on Thursday said he was not comfortable with family separations occurring at the border but didn’t put blame on President Trump. Instead blaming the 1997 Flores settlement, which bars the government from detaining children for long periods, including with their parents. Republicans will present an immigration bill next week that will limit family separation at the border is expected to be part of that legislation, likely in the form of changes to address the Flores rule. Which might mean no longer removing children from their parents but detaining them together until their court hearing.

Rallies took place in support of keeping families together across the US on Thursday.

Events, including rallies and vigils, were planned in more than 60 cities and towns in the U.S., according to the organizer, Families Belong Together. Protesters in states including California, Texas, Michigan and New York, drew attention to the Trump administration’s policy with hopes of immediate reform to stop the separation of immigrant families.


READ: A California Woman Told Greyhound Bus Passengers Their Legal Right Not To Show Border Patrol Documentation

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Honduran Father Whose 13-Year-Old Daughter Committed Suicide After He Wasn’t Granted Asylum Wants Her To “Help Another Person Live”

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Honduran Father Whose 13-Year-Old Daughter Committed Suicide After He Wasn’t Granted Asylum Wants Her To “Help Another Person Live”

Twitter

Heydi Gámez García, 13, took her life on July 2nd after her father’s asylum request was denied for the third time. Heydi’s father, Manuel Gámez, sent her to the U.S. after his father was gunned down by MS-13 for refusing to pay a “war tax” to the gang. He didn’t expect that Heydi would be granted asylum, but that he would be deported.

Manuel certainly didn’t envision that his goodbye hug and kiss four years ago would be the last time he would hug and kiss his daughter while she was still alive.

The Gámaz family was broken by MS-13 and failed again by the U.S. immigration system.

Credit: @amy_baker22 / Twitter

Heydi’s mother walked out on her and her dad when she was less than two months old. By the time Heydi was a year old, Manuel left for New York as an undocumented immigrant to make money to send back home to his daughter. After his father was killed by MS-13, and his mother’s health started failing, he worried about who would care for Heydi and his younger sister, Zoila.

Manuel’s sister was granted asylum and cared for Heydi in his absence in New York.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

A year after his father’s death, he sent Heydi, Zoila and his brother to the U.S. Heydi and Zoila were granted asylum. Heydi learned English within a year and started teaching her father, via phone calls, how to correctly pronounce English words. They spoke every day, always asking when he’d come.

After two failed attempts to gain asylum, Heydi lost hope for being reunited and started cutting herself.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

He never wanted to make promises he couldn’t keep, like being there for her quinceañera. Heydi watched her classmates complain about their parents’ visiting their school and fell into a depression. In December, she was brought to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after cutting her wrist at school. She was seeing a therapist until two months before her suicide.

“Please forgive me for failing you,” Manuel wants to tell his daughter.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there… I never meant to leave you,” he says to her. Heydi was Manuel’s only child. Heydi’s aunt is coping with impossible guilt. She told CNN, “I was supposed to be protecting her. I would never send her to Honduras. But I never thought something bad would happen to her here.”

Manuel was released on a two week ‘humanitarian’ visit to release Heydi from life support.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

He finally got to hold her hand and comfort her as she left this life behind. “We love you,” he whispered to her. “Don’t leave us.”

The last thing Heydi told anyone was that she lost hope in being reunited with her father.

Credit: @MaryJaneKnows / Twitter

She was crying as she told her aunt that she feels hopeless and that one day, she’ll become a lawyer to help her dad’s case. She then said she wanted to be alone and was found two hours later in a closet. She didn’t leave a note.

She was declared brain dead a week later at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens.

Dr. Charles Schleien told CNN that she was in a “neurologically devastated state” upon arrival with “no hope for recovery.” He went on to disclose that the Gámaz family “chose to turn tragedy into the gift of life. Heydi is an organ donor and her final act will be to save others.”

The mental health impacts of family separation at our borders can only be told one story at a time.

Credit: @apbenven / Twitter

Every story is important. Every life lost to policies that don’t incorporate the most visceral human desires, like growing up with your father by your side, is one life too many. 

What on earth are we doing?

Credit: @JoeGould50 / Twitter

Update:

On July 18, Heydi was taken off life support. Her family told The New York Times they decided to donate her organs. “She was so young, so healthy, maybe she can live in another person, she can help another person live,” her father told The Times.

An Activist Read A Poem Criticizing Inhumane Immigration Policies And ICE Arrested Him Two Days Later Now His Community Is Standing Behind Him

Things That Matter

An Activist Read A Poem Criticizing Inhumane Immigration Policies And ICE Arrested Him Two Days Later Now His Community Is Standing Behind Him

ACLU of Southern California / YouTube / Free Jose Bello / Facebook

José Bello came to the U.S. when he was just three years old. In 2018, he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) only to be released on bond after his community raised $10,000 for his freedom. After his experience in an immigrant detention center, he wrote a poem critical of U.S. immigration policy, titled “Dear America.” Bello read that poem at a public forum at the Kern County Board of Supervisors in May. 

Less than 36 hours later, he was rearrested by ICE and taken back to the Mesa Verde detention center. THE ACLU has filed a petition in the San Francisco district court claiming his rearrest is a violation of first amendment rights. Two months later, he’s still in Mesa Verde detention center, and no decision has been made by his judge.

José Bello is a student at Bakersfield College, a farmer, and a father.

Credit: ACLU of Southern California / YouTube

Here’s a taste of his poem:

“Dear America,

Our administration has failed.
They passed laws against our people,
Took away our rights and our freedom,
and still expect to be hailed?
Chaless!

Dear America,

You and your administration cause fear,
fear through Separation.
Instead of building trust with our people, do y’all prefer this racial tension?

Oppressed.”

A theme runs through his poem, touching on family separation.

Credit: @MVLiberation / Twitter

He speaks to all Americans when he says:

“Dear Americans,

You might be asking yourself, “What’s the whole point of repeating these facts?”
Well I am here to let you know, we want to feel safe, whether we’re Brown, Asian or Black.
We don’t want your jobs. We don’t want your money. Were here to work hard, pay taxes and study!”

Chillingly, two days before he was separated from his baby, he said, “We will never be apart, chiquito.”

Credit: ACLU of Southern California / YouTube

“The fight has begun.
“We will never be apart chiquito,” is what I promised my son.
Y’all can try to justify your actions. Try to make excuses.
The bottom line here is that at the end, the people always triumph and the government loses.”

A GoFundMe set up for Bellos says that he received a DUI under “shady circumstances.”

Credit: ACLU of Southern California / YouTube

He essentially forfeited his rights without knowing it, resulting in a no contest charge. He hasn’t had a drink since and has been doing community service work as part of his plea. Bello has been compliant in paying all his fines and attended all his hearings.

There is no other known reason to detain him except in retaliation to his public criticism of the system.

Credit: ACLU of Southern California / YouTube

The ACLU’s filing is entirely predicated on the close succession of the two events being the reason for his arrest, saying it “strongly indicates that ICE acted in retaliation against Mr. Bello for his speech expressing views against the agency’s actions.”

The fear is that the move will chill immigrant activists from speaking out at a time when ICE’s unchecked power and aggression is escalating.

Credit: Free Jose Bello / Facebook

Still, Bello is writing poetry from the confines of Mesa Verde. This time, he’s simply asking, “why?”

Meanwhile, Judge Kim is weighing her decision after Bello finally had his court hearing July 15th.

Credit: Free Jose Bello / Facebook

That’s two whole months after he was arrested. Two months away from his child. Judge Kim could take anywhere from two days to a month to make her decision. 

There is a movement is in motion to #FreeJoseBello.

Credit: Free Jose Bello / Facebook

Jose Bello is a crucial member of the immigrant community in San Francisco. He’s organized a lobbying workshop for his college’s club Latinos Unidos Por Educación. He led and organized an immigrant caravan drive, to help ensure no child went without clean clothes or food. 

You can help by donating to Bello’s GoFundMe to help make his unjustly high $50,000 bond to be reunited with his son.

Credit: Free Jose Bello / Facebook

The ACLU has said the $50,000 bond is “hugely unjust” since Bello is a student who makes just $20,000 a year. The GoFundMe has only raised $2,375 at the time of this publication. #FreeJoseBello.

Watch his full poem below.

READ: A Honduran Teens Says An Officer Groped Her Breast And Touched Her Between Her Legs In Front Of Officers

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