A man from Guatemala says he was separated from his young daughter at the U.S.-Mexico border on July 5th despite the executive order that family separations were stopping.
According to a letter from the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), Mario Perez-Domingo and his 2-year-old daughter were torn apart when trying to enter the country despite Perez-Domingo, 24, having his little girl’s birth certificate. He was apprehended at the border patrol center in McAllen, Texas.
Border patrol agents claimed the birth certificate was not authentic. A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) spokesperson claimed that Perez-Domingo initially said the little girl was his niece.
“Mr. Perez-Domingo advised agents that his niece’s mother lived in Georgia and would be delivering the child to her. However, when Border Patrol contacted the child’s supposed mother, the individual had difficulty providing basic biographical information on the child,” the spokesperson said.
Perez-Domingo, who speaks very little Spanish, “stressed his anxiety and fear” and did not have a great understanding of what was happening to him, the TCRP letter states. Perez-Domingo speaks Mam, an indigenous language.
Efrn C. Olivares, director of the Racial and Economic Justice Program for the TCRP, said that his non-profit organization went to greater lengths for Perez-Domingo than the United States government did.
“The federal government did not take even the most basic steps to verify Mario’s parentage: officials did not secure a Mam interpreter to ensure they were communicating effectively with Mario; officials did not verify the authenticity of the birth certificate Mario presented with the Guatemalan government; officials did not attempt to verify Mario’s or his daughter’s identities,” he said, according to My Statesman. “Those were the first fundamental steps that a small nonprofit like TCRP was able to take quickly, and which the federal government failed to take before deciding to separate a two-year-old from her father.”
TCRP got in contact with the Guatemalan Consulate, which confirmed that the girl is in fact Perez-Domingo’s daughter. But as of July 13th, the two were still separated.
“The takeaway is that as long as the zero tolerance policy is in place, the separations could happen any day,” Olivares said on a call with reporters.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said 2,551 children still remain apart from their parents after trying to enter the country illegally and not all of them will return to their families.
In a statement, HHS said: “It is not, nor should it be, our objective to reunify all 2,551 minors with the adult whom they arrived here with, because some of those adults are not their parents or pose a clear danger to the children.”