In a letter dated July 15, immigrant parents detained at the southern border asked for help from the American people in reuniting them with their children and accused the US government of forcibly separating them.
“To the United States public: Please help us. We are desperate parents,” the letter begins.
“We are not criminals, but we need your help. We came to this country to save our lives and the lives of our children," they write. "We were not prepared for the nightmare that we faced here. The United States government, kidnapped our children with tricks and didn’t give us the opportunity to say goodbye.”
The letter, written by 54 adult detainees at the Port Isabel Service Detention Center in Los Fresnos, TX also said that they feel they have not been given the opportunity to explain to officials the reasons for crossing the border.
“The asylum official is denying nearly all cases and so are the judges. They don’t give us an opportunity to explain why we came here. We also feel pressured to sign for our deportation as a quick means to reunite with our children.”
However, in a statement issued July 10, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) said it is working to reunify families separated at the border in a “responsible manner” once the relationship between the child and the adult has been confirmed.
“For children under 5 years old, the HHS Incident Management Team (IMT) and Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) have investigated detained adults to verify parentage, conducted thorough criminal background checks to determine no danger is presented to the child, and gathered information from case management and clinical services provided to the child.”
The immigrant parents wrote that they are concerned about their children who have been placed with other families and say that so far, they have only spoken with their children one time since being separated.
“Many of us have only spoken with our children once when we have the opportunity to speak with them (which is very difficult because the social worker never answers.) The children cry, they don’t recognize our voices and they feel abandoned and unloved.”
“This makes us feel dead in life,” they added.
Critics argue that under the current administration, it is becoming more difficult for immigrants to attain the status of asylum seeker.
“But asylum standards are becoming more restrictive. In June, Sessions reversed a grant of asylum for a Salvadoran woman fleeing domestic violence, single-handedly undoing two decades of progress for gender-based asylum claims,” wrote Lindsay M. Harris, vice chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s National Asylum and Refugee Committee.
“He also changed the standard for asylum to require not only that the government in a migrant’s home country is unwilling or unable to protect the asylum seeker from harm, but also that the government is actively condoning persecution by non-state actors — a higher bar for applicants to meet.”
In addition to an interview with government officials to establish a credible-fear, Harris said that this is only the beginning of a long process for asylum seekers.
“Next, they must present their case before an immigration judge and face an experienced prosecutor on the other side. An asylum seeker will probably wait several years for that day in court, given the backlog of more than 700,000 cases pending before the approximately 350 immigration judges.”
The July 15 letter concludes with another plea for help from the American people.
“We feel like there is no way out of this nightmare because the asylum officials and the judges are against us. Please help us and bring justice to Texas!”