Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says his department still has custody of 2,047 migrant children separated from their parents. That’s only six fewer children than the 2,053 HHS had said were in its custody as of last Wednesday. (June 26) AP
A migrant father was separated from his 2-year-old daughter Monday, which is over three weeks after President Donald Trump signed an executive order to stop such separations at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a statement by the Texas Civil Rights Project.
The Guatemalan father, Mario Perez-Domingo speaks Mam, an indigenous language, and he has minimal understanding of and ability to speak Spanish.
On Monday, Perez-Domingo said an agent separated him from his two-year-old daughter “despite his pleas that she was his daughter, and even having a copy of her birth certificate,” the statement reads.
“Perez-Domingo recounts that the agents alleged that the birth certificate was not authentic,” the statement reads. “He was scared and had very little understanding of what the agent was asking of him.”
Perez-Domingo’s daughter was transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee and Resettlement after he was referred for prosecution for the federal misdemeanor crime of entering the U.S. without proper documentation, as per what’s known as the “zero tolerance” policy.
“Because (the nonprofit) caught this violation, we prevented the U.S. Attorney’s office from prosecuting him,” said Zenén Jaimes Pérez, communications director for the organization. “But he’s still separated from his daughter.”
Administration ordered to reunite families
In May, the historically discretionary practice of prosecuting migrants for the federal misdemeanor charge of entering the country without proper documentation was expanded. Because children cannot be jailed with adults, the policy created grounds for the separation of families that has gained global attention.
Central American asylum seekers wait as U.S. Border Patrol agents take them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing center for possible separation. (Photo: John Moore, Getty Images)
The Texas nonprofit has monitored the implementation of what’s known as the “zero-tolerance” policy from the federal courthouse in McAllen, Texas since May. After this week’s revelation, the organization issued a statement citing the separation is an “apparent failure to comply with the June 20 Executive Order and the nationwide injunction issued in the case of Ms. L. v. ICE on June 26.”
Under a federal judge’s order on June 27 the Trump administration was compelled to reunite “tender age” children younger than 5 within 14 days. The deadline was earlier this week.
On Monday, TCRP met and interviewed Perez-Domingo, the father who was separated from his two-year-old daughter when he was detained by Customs and Border Protection in south Texas, the statement reads.
“The father had his daughter’s birth certificate, but the government did not believe Mario that the baby was his daughter, and seemingly took the position that the documents Mario was carrying were not authentic,” the statement reads.
After the organization reached out to his family in Guatemala, as well as the Guatemalan consulate, documentation was obtained that confirmed the authenticity of the birth certificate, the statement reads.
More: Immigrant girl in viral audio reunited with mother wants ‘happy ending’ for other children
“Mario was telling the truth all along. Yet, the government separated him from his toddler in violation of the injunction in Ms. L (suit).”
Organization: Recent separation may not be isolated incident
The recent separation has led advocates to believe it’s not an isolated incident, Efrén C. Olivares, TCRP’s racial and economic justice program director, said in the statement.
Children look inside the doors at the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement office in downtown Louisville on Thursday. Over 200 attended a protest regarding ICE and the separation of immigrant families. June 21, 2018 (Photo: Alton Strupp/Courier Journal)
“We are gravely concerned this father may not be the only parent separated from a child after the injunction, particularly indigenous individuals, such as our clients, who have limited Spanish proficiency,” Olivares states. “At a time when the government should have been working to reunite babies and toddlers separated families before the deadline set by the injunction, our client was separated from his infant daughter.”
The organization sent a letter Friday…
Authored by Sophie Ryan