If you thought the stories about separated families at the border couldn't get more heartbreaking, this might prove you wrong. According to a new report out of Texas from the Huffington Post, one immigration lawyer says some of her clients can't aide in their own asylum cases because the migrants separated from their kids are too distraught. Texas-based immigration lawyer Jodi Goodwin told HuffPost that some of her clients at Port Isabel Detention Center outside of Brownsville are failing their "credible fear" interviews, an important step to establishing asylum eligibility.
Goodwin told the news outlet that more than half of the 20 or so parents she spoke with did not pass their interviews. Failing a "credible fear" interview could lead to migrants' asylum claims being denied. Then, they could get deported to the country they're attempting to flee. Goodwin thinks the emotional toll of being separated from your child could have to do with it.
"They are losing it. They are red-faced and have bloodshot eyes and all they do is cry. We are trying to ask them basic information but they are whimpering and they can’t talk," Goodwin told HuffPost.
Basically, these parents are so concerned about the wellbeing of the children who they've been separated from (after being given little knowledge of how they'll get them back) that their own immigration cases are being put at risk.
The issue of family separation came into the public eye when data was released showing that about 2,000 children were separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border over six weeks in May and June. Trump signed an executive order in June that will effectively detain families together, but did not announce plans to reunite immigrant families.
There's no consensus on how often — if at all — parents are able to communicate with their kids at this point. In fact, Goodwin told HuffPost, sometimes talking with their kids brings about greater trauma. "The things their children are saying to them are horrific," Goodwin claimed.
Another lawyer who spoke with HuffPost spoke of about 10 mothers at the same detention facility who were shattered by the family separation policy. "I tried to reassure them the kids were physically OK and not in jail-like settings," Kimi Jackson, ProBAR’s director told HuffPost. "And they looked at me like I was crazy. They said, 'It doesn't matter if they live in palaces and have the prettiest clothes. They need their mother.'"
Those strong emotions could also leave detained immigrants at risk of being taken advantage of, lawyers claimed to HuffPost. On June 24, The Texas Tribune reported a case of a Honduran man who — along with most of 20 to 25 other men being held with him — was offered family reunification if he volunteered to be deported. The men were being held at the privately operated IAH Polk County Secure Adult Detention Center outside of Houston. "I was told I would not be deported without my daughter," Carlos told The Texas Tribune. "I signed it out of desperation… but the truth is I can't go back to Honduras; I need help." An ICE spokesman told The Texas Tribune that his agency "cannot research vague allegations."
The family separations — and lack of reunification — have been condemned by the United Nations. Purposefully separating families "amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child," spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva. "The U.S. should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalizing what should at most be an administrative offense — that of irregular entry or stay in the U.S."