Within the last two weeks, a woman named Angelica brought her 3-year-old granddaughter Sofi to the US-Mexico border. She had all her papers in order: the birth certificate, documents proving legal guardianship of Sofi, etc., and walked across the Paso del Norte bridge into El Paso. This is a legal port of entry.
She was seeking asylum because in her native Juarez, her family wasn’t safe. Angelica has buried her son and several grandchildren due to cartel violence. She didn’t want the same for Sofi. She wanted to respect the laws of this country — hence the legal entry — while also ensuring that Sofi would have a happier and safer childhood than some of her cousins. Already, both Sofi and Angelica were receiving psychological counseling at the shelter in Juarez where they were staying.
At the port of entry, the border patrol interviewed Angelica for about 2-3 days to prove that she wasn’t committing fraud and was, in fact, an asylum seeker. At the end of that time, border patrol took Sofi away from Angelica, claiming that because Angelica wasn’t Sofi’s biological mother, they had to be separated. Sofi was screaming, sobbing, begging to go back to her grandmother. The paperwork proving legal guardianship didn’t matter. The fact that Angelica did everything exactly as she was supposed to in order to provide a better life for her grandchild didn’t matter. Trump declaring an end to family separation didn’t matter (in fact, this separation happened two days after Trump declared an end to family separation).
This 3-year-old was taken away and placed into the custody of a bunch of strangers.
She turned 4-years-old in a detention center, surrounded by strangers in a foreign land.
Angelica was able to get Sofi’s mother, who had entered the US previously with her younger child, involved to demand Sofi’s release. Sofi’s mother was told that after 5 days, a social worker would contact her about Sofi’s whereabouts, but did not leave a case number. Instead, Sofi’s mother has to fill out paperwork to get her own daughter returned to her with absolutely no information on where Sofi is being held.
What, exactly, should this family have done differently to avoid having this little girl taken away? Was it the audacity of being born in a place of cartel violence? Should they have remained behind? Why where Angelica’s papers proving legal guardianship not enough for the border patrol? And why the F*CK is there no case number? How do you lose track of so many children and then still insist on separating families who have ALL THEIR PAPERWORK IN ORDER?
It is monstrous.
When PBS reached out to the Department of Homeland Security, they claimed they had stopped separating families. This is not helpful to Angelica, of course, but the DHS is almost flaunting the fact that they really don’t care. They might as well wear jackets saying as much.
Our border patrol doesn’t care about whether people coming here are legal or undocumented. There is no rule of law if they can’t even be bothered to create a case number, if a mother must fill out paperwork for an organization that claims it isn’t doing what it is so clearly doing.
Finding a child lost in HHS is a nightmare. Multiple sources are now looking for Sofi. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are able to help.
Featured image via screen grab/YouTube