“Biden Is Still Separating Immigrant Kids From Their Families,” read a November 21, 2022 headline from the Texas Observer. Reporters Anna-Catherine Brigida and John Washington recounted the experience of a Colombian lawyer and her family who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in late May 2022. The report used pseudonyms: Victoria, the lawyer, her husband Anton, and their 10-year-old son Felipe.
Several days into their detention:
on or about May 29—the exact date is unclear—Victoria and Felipe were taken to another room from which they could see, but not speak to, Anton. After some paperwork and an interview, an officer told Victoria that they were taking Felipe to have a snack.
“They opened the door, took him away, and then closed the door,” Victoria said. She had heard about family separations, but didn’t think the U.S. government was still taking kids away from their parents.
Victoria sensed something was amiss and began asking officials where her son was. “I don’t know,” immigration officials told her repeatedly. Almost six months later, she hasn’t seen him.
Felipe ended up treated as an unaccompanied minor, in the custody of the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Border Patrol and CBP apparently made no record of the relationship between parents and child: “It took a month for the ORR to even realize that Felipe still had parents from Colombia who were being detained in the United States,” and that was because Felipe himself explained what happened.
“There was confusion that ORR thought he was found alone in Mexico,” said Daniela Velez, an attorney with NIJC [the National Immigrant Justice Center, which took the family’s case]. “This is such a big deal. This is Felipe being taken away from his parents and no one can explain why or how.” The government has yet to be able to tell her why they separated the parents.
“Since late May,” the report continued, “Felipe has been living in an ORR shelter in Chicago while his parents and uncle remain in U.S. Marshals’ custody in a privately run Texas prison” for the crime of illegal entry into the United States. “Since they were first able to speak by phone in June, Felipe’s parents have only been permitted 15-minute phone calls once a week.”
— Brigida, Anna-Catherine, and John Washington. “Biden Is Still Separating Immigrant Kids From Their Families.” The Texas Observer, November 21, 2022. <https://www.texasobserver.org/the-biden-administration-is-still-separating-kids-from-their-families/>.
— “Monthly Report to Congress on Separated Children.” Washington: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2022. <https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/september-2022-monthly-report-on-separated-children.pdf>.