A group of migrant parents detained in Texas penned an open letter pleading with the United States to reunite them with their children, detailing the anxiety and anguish they have experienced since their separations. CNN first reported the letter.
The letter, written in Spanish, reads, in part:
“Each day is more painful than the last. Many of us have only had the chance to speak to our children once (this is very difficult because the social workers never answer). The children cry, they don’t recognize our voices and they feel abandoned and unloved. This makes us feel like we are dead in life.”
Fifty-four detainees in Port Isabel Service Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas, signed the cry for help. According to the desperate parents, officials reject the majority of asylum cases without even giving them a chance to plead their cases.
“We also feel pressured to sign for our deportation as a quick means to reunite with our children,” wrote the parents. “We feel like there is no way out of this nightmare because the asylum officials and the judges are against us.”
President Trump alleged that family separations would cease unless the adult posed an imminent danger to the child he or she was traveling with. But as recently as July 5th, a father who barely spoke Spanish says he was ripped apart from his 2-year-old daughter despite having her birth certificate with him.
“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 migrants wrote.
With virtually no options, the parents describe pressure to agree to deportation proceedings as a last-ditch effort to be reunited with their children.
“We feel like there is no way out of this nightmare because the asylum officials and the judges are against us,” they say.
Not much is known about what goes on within the walls of the detention centers. News cameras have not been permitted inside. When Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visited one of the centers, many detainees were forced to wait outside until she left, so they didn’t have a chance to speak with her.
Attorneys have shed some light on what they witness when meeting with clients, and their accounts match the description provided in the detainees’ open letter.
Lawyer Jodi Goodwin described to CNN the trauma children endure and its lasting effects upon being separated from their families. Reunions would be expected to be a happy time, but traumatized children often do not express joy.
“It’s very sad,” she said. “It takes them one or two minutes for them to reach over to their mothers.”
“They are rejecting everybody,” she told USA Today.
Virginia-based attorney Eileen Blessinger described Los Fresnos as “total craziness.”
“We need more whistleblowers to come forward, with images, video and facts and evidence to present this to the American public so they know really what’s going on,” attorney Michael Avenatti said.
Michael Avenatti, attorney to porn star Stormy Daniels, is also currently representing 60 immigrant mothers and 70 children, focusing on reunification as well as their immigration status overall.
Last month, he described meeting with mothers and hearing their stories as “the most difficult days of his career,” possibly his life, telling MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that women recounted their children “ripped from their side in connection with this separation policy.”
“This is a very serious matter. Rachel, I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” he said.