Each day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants are sent to the Bentsen Tower in McAllen where they are charged with illegally entering the country.
After the recent practice of separating families, many parents are seen entering the courtroom crying.
Last week, one woman from Honduras collapsed inside the courtroom after a federal judge told her he did not know where her daughter was.
“One of the mothers was so distraught by having had her children taken away that she fainted while she did her interview,” said human rights attorney, Efren Olivares, with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “It goes to show how affected the parents are; I can only imagine the children.”
The woman was given some water and finished the interview after being checked out.
Olivares says she is just one out of more than 260 families that the Texas Civil Rights project has interviewed since May 24.
Another mother with two daughters who have been taken away from her told Olivares she wanted to take her own life because she was fearful for her daughters’ futures.
Olivares and a group of human rights attorneys head to federal court in McAllen where every day, they interview undocumented immigrants who have been separated from their children.
“Today there was 81, just in McAllen and just in the morning,” said Olivares. “Everywhere else there are more, plus another group in the afternoon. They go to a criminal hearing and the judge asks which ones came with children, they stand up and they’re all handcuffed, shackled around their ankles.”
After the sentencing, Olivares interviews the parents who have been separated from their children, trying to prevent the parent from being deported without their child.
“They’re crying. Most of them are crying throughout the interview, especially when they’re realizing they might not see their children later today because that’s what most of them are told,” said Olivares. “We know for a fact that’s not true, because once the children are separated, they’re unaccompanied minors and the Office of Refugee Settlement takes custody of them.”
The parents are then turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to await their immigration hearing.
“They are put on a bus and shipped back to the CBP detention center and they hope that their children will still be there, and some might,” said Olivares. “But, I mean, it’s not guaranteed.”
Once back at the detention center, the parents are given a handout that explains the four steps ahead for detained immigrants with children. The handout—which you can read here— tells parents the four steps ahead for detained immigrants with children.
Olivares says he will not stop fighting for the immigrants because he’s scared they will get lost in the system.
“If we don’t talk to these families and get their information, they go into a black hole,” said Olivares. “Their children are with OR and they are in the ICE system getting deported or applying for asylum because there is no one other than the government that knows they were separated.”
Attorneys from the Texas Civil Rights project tells CBS 4 they will continue to be at federal court gathering information from parents who have been separated from their child because of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy.
Authored by Janine Maureen