A migrant parent wears an ankle monitor bracelet above his donated flip-flops at the Annunciation House, Tuesday, June 26, 2018, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/Matt York)

A migrant parent wears an ankle monitor bracelet above his donated flip-flops at the Annunciation House, Tuesday, June 26, 2018, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Immigrant mom heads to court to get her son back

Thirty-two parents separated from their children are staying at the Annunciation House as they wait to be reunited with their children.

When Lidia Karine Souza would call her 9-year-old son — allowed just 20 minutes per week — he would beg his mom though tears to do everything in her power to get him out of U.S. government custody and back to her.

The 27-year-old Brazilian mother, who is seeking asylum, has been trying with all her might.

She searched for weeks to find Diogo after the two were separated at the border in late May. When she was released June 9 from a Texas facility, she filled out nearly 40 pages of documents that U.S. officials told her were required to regain custody.

Then they told her that the rules had changed and that she needed any family members living with her in the United States to be fingerprinted and still more documents. This was not the safety she had sought for herself and her son. This was not the American dream.

“This … is a nightmare,” she said, sitting in a suburban Chicago hotel, still waiting to be reunited with Diogo, from whom she’d never spent more than a week apart before this.

On Tuesday, Souza’s attorneys filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to demand her son be immediately released. He has spent four weeks at a government-contracted shelter in Chicago, much of it alone in a room, quarantined with chicken pox. He spent his 9th birthday on Monday without his mom.

Her lawyers said they will be going forward with an emergency hearing Thursday morning in U.S. District Court in Chicago despite a federal judge’s order forcing the government to reunite more than 2,000 children with their families within 30 days, or 14 days in the case of those younger than 5.

Jesse Bless, an attorney from Jeff Goldman Immigration in Boston, one of two firms representing Souza, said he had trouble getting excited over Tuesday’s injunction because the government could still delay further. “We struggle to trust at this point,” he said.

Related: Judge: Separated families must be reunited within 30 days

Related: In reversal, Trump signs executive order to stop family separation

For days and weeks now, some of the hundreds of parents separated from their children at the Mexican border by the Trump administration have been battling one of the world’s most complex immigration systems to find their youngsters and get them back.

For many, it has been a lopsided battle, and a frustrating and heartbreaking one. Most do not speak English. Many know nothing about their children’s whereabouts. And some say their calls to the government’s 1-800 information hotline have gone unanswered.

Huge logistical challenges remain, and whether the U.S. government can manage to clear away the red tape, confusion and seeming lack of co-ordination and make the deadline remains to be seen.

The Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, which is in charge of the children, gave no immediate details Wednesday on how they intend to respond to the ruling.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said he believes the deadline is realistic. “It’s a question of political will, not resources,” he said.

Among the complicating factors: Children have been sent to shelters all over the United States, thousands of miles from the border. And perhaps hundreds of parents have already been deported from the U.S. without their children.

A woman in Guatemala who was deported without her 8-year-old son has had to find a U.S. lawyer from her cinderblock home on the outskirts of Guatemala City to help her get Anthony back. Elsa Johana Ortiz applauded the federal judge’s ruling but added, “As long as he’s not with me, I will not be at peace.”

In El Paso, three dozen parents released Sunday from a U.S. detention centre started a feverish search for their children, using a single shared landline phone at a shelter run by Annunciation House.

Some at that shelter rushed to catch buses bound for New York, Dallas and the West Coast to live with family members in the hope that establishing residency will make it easier to get their kids back. Those who left for other cities carried little more than shopping bags stuffed with sandwiches and folders of birth certificates and asylum paperwork.

One asylum-seeker at Annunciation House, Wilson Romero, hoped to be reunited with his 5-year-old daughter Nataly in California — at the home of his mother, a recent immigrant herself. He said Nataly appeared to be recovering from chickenpox, also contracted in detention, as Diogo did. She told him she had been vomiting and not wanting to eat.

The 26-year-old father was separated from Nataly by U.S. authorities in El Paso in May. In Honduras, he worked at a textile factory making logos for U.S. brands on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula, one of Latin America’s most violent cities. He said he left his homeland so his daughter would have a chance at having a career someday. Now he just wants to see her again.

“I pray to God it is soon,” said Romero, who has a tattoo of his daughter’s name on his right arm.

Souza also has a tattoo of her son’s name on her wrist.

Her lawyer, Bless, said some parents who are trying to get their children placed with friends or relatives in the U.S. are being asked by the government to provide, along with fingerprints of relatives, utility bills and lease information, which many newly arrived immigrants don’t have.

Souza and her son were separated about four weeks ago after she requested asylum, arguing her life was in danger in her native Brazil. “I came out of necessity,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.

After her son was taken, she had no idea where he was until another detained mother said her child knew a boy named Diogo in a Chicago shelter. She talked to him for no more than 20 minutes a week and has been told the soonest he could be released would be in late July.

But she hopes her lawsuit will help reunite them sooner.

Souza, who moved in with relatives outside Boston, visited Diogo for the first time since May on Tuesday. They embraced, and she kissed him several times on the head and face, then grabbed his cheeks gently with her hands as they both cried.

“I missed you so much,” she said in Portuguese.

Asked how he was, Diogo said: “I am better now.”

Their visit lasted an hour. Then he returned to U.S. government custody.

“He cried a lot when the time came to say goodbye,” she said. “He thought we would be taking him home.”

_____

Watson reported from San Diego and Irvine from Chicago. Associated Press writers Morgan Lee in El Paso, Texas; Sonia Perez in Guatemala City; and Will Weissert in McAllen, Texas, contributed to this report.

Martha Irvine And Julie Watson, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Scooters lined up for an educational event in Stuart Park on Wednesday, June 16. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
Free e-scooter safety training in Kelowna

Shared e-scooter operators collaborate to educate riders

The suspect reportedly assaulted a security guard and robbed him. The incident happened at a Kelowna hotel. (Contributed)
Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Employees at Playtime Casino wait outside while firefighters inspect the building after a small storage room fire on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News).
Small fire at Kelowna’s Playtime Casino as staff preps to re-open

Fire ignited in the storage room, but the staff were able to put it out

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

A mother stands with her daughter, visiting senior parents but observing social distancing with a glass door between them.  The granddaughter puts her hand up to the glass, the grandfather and grandmother doing the same.  A small connection in a time of separation during the Covid-19 pandemic (Valley First/Contributed).
Have your say on which Okanagan, Thompson, Similkameen charities get donation

Valley First seeks public help to distribute $250,000 to local charities via social media campaign

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

Vernon Courthouse. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Sentencing delayed in North Okanagan child pornography case

Man who pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography will have new sentence date fixed next week

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

People decided to tag Skaha Bluffs rocks which the Ministry has to go in and now clean up. (Facebook)
Bluffs at popular Penticton rock climbing park defaced

Ministry of Environment is going to clean it up

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

Most Read