Immigrant families separated at border struggle to find each other – houston chronicle electricity questions and answers physics


As President Donald Trump’s administration ramps up the prosecutions of parents crossing the border illegally and separates their children, Pastor’s case offers a glimpse into how challenging it is to reunite them. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has defended the practice, saying children are taken from any criminals imprisoned for breaking the law.

But once immigrant families, many asylum seekers from Central America, are separated at the border, they struggle to find each other among the three behemoth federal agencies in charge of their care. Advocates say few procedures are in place to ensure they reunify.

“In many cases they may never,” said Michelle Brané, executive director of the migrant rights program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, a national advocacy group. “We have seen children as young as 18 months deported without their parents and more commonly, parents deported without their children. Parents arrive in Central America with no idea of how to get their children back.”

Last July, Border Patrol agents found the father holding his baby in the New Mexican desert north of El Paso, and discovered his old deportation. He had no other criminal history beyond two tickets for driving without a license, according to their records.

Border Patrol agents said in their report that they removed the toddler because Pastor couldn’t prove he was the father. The agency has said such separations are often necessary to determine adults are not trafficking the children and lying about their relationship.

In August, Pastor pleaded guilty to re-entering the country illegally and a federal judge sentenced him to time-served for the 22 days he had spent in prison. He was transferred to a civil immigrant detention facility in El Paso, where McLoughlin, as his criminal attorney, lost oversight.

But she worried how such a young child could ever find his father. Knowing federal prisoners have their phones confiscated and don’t always have them returned before deportation, she scribbled down a number for Pastor’s wife in Guatemala before he was transferred. She shared it with the consulate.

Across the country federal defenders say they are increasingly on the front lines of helping parents find their children. Often they are the only counsel migrants ever see as they move rapidly from Justice Department to Homeland Security detention and then speedily deported.

Miguel "Andy" Nogueras, a federal public defender in McAllen, said he recently represented a woman who was prosecuted for illegal entry last fall and had her child removed. She was coming back to find her this month when she was imprisoned for returning.

Leticia Zamarripa, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement that Pastor told officials about his son on Sept. 1, days after transferring from prison. She said officials arranged for him to receive an update on his son’s case and “make telephonic contact.”

Pastor said that never happened. He said the facility was overwhelmed with the transfer of immigrants from detention centers impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the official said she was too busy. He later again told immigration agents and consular staff that he wanted to return to Guatemala with his toddler.

But advocates say that once minors are deemed “unaccompanied,” they require certain legal and privacy protections and have their own potential asylum cases. They land in federal shelters across the country often with little information on their parents. By the time advocates find parents, who are not told where their children are until their relationship is established, they have already sometimes been deported.