Things That Matter

Migrant Families Are Still Being Ripped Apart At The Border As Parents Are Sent Back To Wait In Mexico

The end of year holidays are generally a joyous time to spend with your loved ones. In some cases, they are the perfect push one needs to reconnect with a estranged relative or friend. It is a time to be together, hold your little mijos or sobrinos tight and perhaps spend one last New Year’s with an old abuelita who might not be here next time around. However, for many migrant and asylum-seeking families who fail in their attempt to enter the United States this is not an option. 

Family separation at the border has been a very contentious issue during the Trump administration, as opponents to this measure say that it is simply wrong and inhumane, while supporters provide the simplistic assumption that detained migrants get what they deserve because no one asked them to try to enter the United States. Legal battles have been waged and pundits on both sides of the immigration debate have taken their gloves off. Now a recent investigation has revealed that misinformation has effectively altered the lives of migrants, for the worse. 

The investigation revealed that bad info has led migrants to nightmarish situation in which parents and children are separated.

Credit: Manuel Ortega-Ruiz / Getty

Adolfo Flores over at BuzzFeed went to the border town of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, in Mexico to inteview asylum seekers who had been separated from their families. As he interviewed them a constant theme emerged: bad information is leading the authorities to take kids off their parents, who are then sent to Mexico even if they originally come from thousands of miles south in Central America.

Such is the case of one Miguel, and Honduran asylum-seeker whose son Francisco was taken by Border Patrol in August. Francisco was only 12-years-old. Miguel hasn’t seen him since then and the only thing he was told by an agent was “Your son can’t go where we’re taking you. We’re taking him to a safe place”. Can you imagine the pain this causes? We simply cannot.

Parents are being sent to Mexico to wait until their cases in the US are resolved: 60,000 have been sent south of the border during the Trump administration.

Credit: Denver Journal of International Law & Policy

Talk about a state of cruel purgatory. As reported by Flores, Miguel and Francisco “are now caught in the middle of the government’s continued separation of families at the border and a Trump administration policy, known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), that has sent thousands of immigrants to wait in Mexico while their US cases are completed”. This is simply inhumane. The Mexican government of course shares some responsibility as the Lopez Obrador administration has been extra accommodating to Trump’s demands much to the disdain of human rights activists… and pretty much any human with a heart and a little bit of compassion in their veins. 

Once in Mexico, often in unsafe and unfamiliar locations such as Reynosa, parents try to find legal help to get their children back.

Miguel believes that his case is mired with misinformation and that this complicates his prospects. He is waiting in the city of Reynosa, perhaps one of the most dangerous in Mexico. In Reynosa and other border cities, an emerging legal industry is aiding migrants. However, it is possible that lawyers are also taking advantage of them. Added to this, the population is developing a xenophobia against Central American migrants as the number of asylum seekers sent to Mexico rises.

As reported by Flores, cases like Miguel’s highlight how this policies “sometimes based on incomplete or misleading information, leaves an unknown number of desperate parents and guardians at a loss to know how to get their children back while holed up in dangerous locations in Mexico”. Just close your eyes and try to imagine the desperation and utter despair of now knowing where your children or siblings are, if they are sick, if they are eating. 

Many of the stories are heartbreaking.

Credit: Daniel Noriega / Slate

Many of the cases need to be read to be believed. As reported by Flores: “A complaint filed by the Women’s Refugee Commission in August with two DHS watchdog agencies detailed 20 cases where families were separated by CBP at the border and at least some members were sent back to Mexico under MPP.”

There is a Guatemalan man who speaks almost no Spanish and whose son was taken by Border Patrol solely based on the belief that the birth certificate was fake. A Salvadorian young woman who had been taking care of her siblings after their mother was murdered was separated from them even if custody had been granted in El Salvador. And the list goes on and on. 

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