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Stories of family separation

June 22, 2018

One illegal immigrant mother from Guatemala says that during the phone calls she’s had with her son, he cries for most of the time.

Every time she eats in her detention center, she thinks of the meals she used to be able to share with her son. When she goes to sleep, she is troubled because he used to sleep next to her. She wakes up remember him being taken from her at the border.

“I don’t understand how someone could take their child away from their mother. I think, ’Don’t they have children too? Don’t they know the pain I’m feeling? Then I say to myself that God has a plan but I still don’t understand why my son was taken,” she said.

Another illegal immigrant mother says she’s allowed two 10-minute phone calls a week with her children and sometimes the phone is broken and makes her redial, wasting precious time she could be talking with her kids.

“Like every parent, I want all the information about my children. I want a video of where they are living. I want to know the therapists, the teacher and all of the people that have contact with my children,” she told a federal judge in a court filing this week.

They are two of the mothers who say they were separated as part of the fallout from President Trump’s zero tolerance border policy.

And they’re part of a growing number of parents who have taken to the federal courts demanding judges step in and force the government to give them daily updates on each of their children, to facilitate more phone calls, and ultimately reunite them with their children.

The lawyers say keeping the children separate from their parents amounts to an “unconstitutional punishment.”

The case also gives a look at the situations the families find themselves in, and the anguish the parents say they’re experiencing after deciding to jump the border with their children.

The mother who couldn’t eat or sleep without thinking of her 9-year-old son said they were separated a day after their arrest on May 14. She said she doesn’t know where he’s being kept, though she believes it’s in New York. She’s spoken with him three times, for five minutes each, since the separation more than a month ago.

“My son isn’t able to give me much information about his circumstances because he is too young and too upset to understand what is happening,” says the woman, identified only as E.F. in the court documents. Her son is identified as B.Y.A.F.

She told her story to a translator who wrote it down in English for her. She signed the document only with an “X.”

A woman identified as M.G.U., the mother of the three children, said she is only able to make calls to her children when she has money. Sometimes when she calls her children don’t come to the phone, she said.

Her youngest, a 2-year-old boy, can’t give her any information. Another boy is not good at verbalizing his feelings. Her third son can communicate but doesn’t have a lot to say about his brothers because they’re only together for an hour a day, the woman said.

“The director said that she knows that the news is saying lots of things but the children are fine there and that they are good kids. But she does not say any details,” the woman wrote in Spanish, which was then translated for the court.

“She did not tell me anything about how they are eating, or how they are sleeping, and nothing about the school. I know that they are not ‘fine’ because they cry a lot,” she said.