Government provided video shows more than 1,100 people inside metal cages in a warehouse that’s divided into separate wings for unaccompanied children, adults on their own, and mothers and fathers with children.
PHOENIX — There was a moment when the 12-year-old pleaded with her mother to ask the U.S. government to deport them both — whatever it took so they could be back together.
“I told her, ‘It’s going to be OK, mija. We’re going to be together again,’” Perla Karlili Alemengor Miranda De Velasquez said in Spanish, breaking into tears over the phone.
The 30-year-old mother said she would never forget that June phone call with her daughter. She could hear in Yoselin’s voice that she had given up.
But miracles have happened since that conversation, Perla told The Arizona Republic.
On Tuesday, lawyers from Nexus Derechos Humanos Attorneys filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Perla’s behalf. Libre by Nexus, the immigration-bond services business that posted her bail, is funding the case.
Finally, Perla got to talk to her daughter again. Her attorneys were so sure they were close to putting Yoselin back in her mother’s arms that they flew Perla to Corpus Christi, the federally funded facility where Yoselin had been sent after an officer separated the mother and daughter.
A series of paperwork demands delayed that reunion, Perla’s attorneys said. But if all goes well, Perla will get off a plane in Los Angeles on Sunday at about the same time her daughter exits another plane at LAX.
“I keep praying,” Perla said over the phone. “I told her, ‘I’m going to see you, mija.'”
But lowering her voice, she said she has learned not to count on anything.
“I feel better hearing my little girl’s voice,” she said. “But I won’t feel safe until I have her back, see her face, hold her.”
Separations weigh heavily
Perla remembers the day when they almost gave up, when her daughter said they should let the government deport them both to Guatemala so at least they’d be together.
It didn’t matter that Perla and her daughter Yoselin had traveled more than 2,000 miles to escape violence in Guatemala.
It didn’t matter that they’d made it through what Perla describes as fear-filled days at a U.S. processing center, where she said they were fed soup through a pipe, told to cover up with aluminum blankets, kept in a space so overfilled with mothers and children that everyone slept sitting up.
The distraught phone call came weeks after an officer forcibly separated Yoselin from her mother. What was finally sinking in was the sight of children leaving their mother’s sides, thinking they were going for a bath or a meal and never coming back.
In the days after the officer took Yoselin away, Perla said she heard one mother ask where her child was.
She said she heard the officer say, “You’re being deported, and your child is being adopted.”
‘Treat us like humans’
Three weeks have passed since that desperate call between Perla, at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, and Yoselin, at Bokenkamp Children’s Shelter in Corpus Christi.
After passing a “credible fear” interview to show she would not be safe if she returned to her home country, Perla was released from detention. She is pursuing asylum in the U.S. and awaiting a hearing date.
On Tuesday, Perla’s attorneys filed a lawsuit in a Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., to force the Trump administration to give back her child. Seventeen other states, all led by Democratic attorneys general, are suing in U.S. District Court to force the Trump administration to reunite migrant families.
Perla’s suit came days after another mother from Guatemala, Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia, successfully sued to get her son back. The deal brokered between the government and her lawyer led to a surprise reunion in Baltimore.
“We are mothers protecting our children from violence in Guatemala,” Perla told The Republic. “You don’t have to like us, but treat us like humans. Why would you take a child from their mother?”
Future of separated families unclear
The Department of Homeland Security released details on how parents forcibly separated from their children under Trump’s so-called “zero-tolerance” policy could reunite with their children.
Under the plan, a process has been established “to ensure that family members know the location of their children and have regular communication after separation to ensure that those adults” are reunited with their children before removal, the statement said.
But immigration and civil-rights attorneys across the nation say parents are still struggling to find out where their children are. No one answers when they call the hotline, they say, and forms they file are returned with little information.
Perla is among the thousands of mothers who continue to say there is no clear process for getting their children back in their arms.
A federal judge has ordered the reunification of all children and parents within 30 days, or within 14 days if the child is under 5. But no one knows how, when or if this will happen.
Perla only knows that she needs to see Yoselin again.
She says she wants to show her that when she said over and over again that it would all be OK, she meant it.
A mother keeps her word, she said.
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