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American Parents Sue The Government Over Family Separation Policy

The administration says it is forging ahead with plans to reunite the parents

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A protester holds a sign outside a closed gate at the Port of Entry facility, June 21, 2018, in Fabens, Texas, where tent shelters are being used to house separated family members
A protester holds a sign outside a closed gate at the Port of Entry facility, June 21, 2018, in Fabens, Texas, where tent shelters are being used to house separated family members, VOA
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Among the parents of more than 2,300 separated migrant children, three Central American parents sued the U.S. government over its policy of family separations Wednesday, the day U.S. President Donald Trump, under intense public pressure, ordered an end to the practice.

But three days later, their situation had not changed and they’re “desperate” for information about the whereabouts and well-being of their children, their lawyer said.

“Our clients are being held in detention facilities with no access to information about their children,” said Jerome Wesevich, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in Brownsville, Texas. “The government has some procedures in place for supplying information. So far those have been entirely inadequate.”

The administration says it is forging ahead with plans to reunite the parents with the thousands of children separated since early May when officials announced a “zero tolerance policy” on illegal entry into the United States.

People participate in a protest against recent U.S. immigration policy that separates children from their families when they enter the United States as undocumented immigrants, in front of a Homeland Security facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, June 17, 2018.
People participate in a protest against recent U.S. immigration policy that separates children from their families when they enter the United States as undocumented immigrants, in front of a Homeland Security facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, June 17, 2018. VOA

Some families reunited

Late Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it had reunited about 500 families, saying “all unaccompanied children in their custody” had been reunited with their families.

But the status of many more transferred out of CBP custody remains uncertain. Wesevich said the uncertainty has left the migrant parents in the dark.

“I’d say there is not a lot of optimism,” Wesevich said. “The president’s announcement is not very understandable about what it’s going to mean in practical terms.”

Meanwhile, legal assistance organizations are trying to locate migrant families caught up in the confusion and chaos that followed Trump’s order.

The Texas Civil Rights Project, an advocacy organization based in Austin, Texas, is leading one of the largest reunification efforts in the state, seeking to reunite as many as 381 immigrants who have been separated from their children.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid said it would continue its efforts on behalf of the three Central American parents as it awaits clarity about how the government intends to reunite the separated families.

“The point of our lawsuit (is) that they do it as compassionately and quickly as possible,” Wesevich said. “By compassionate, I mean the parents are provided with information on where their children are, how they’re being cared for.”

Short phone calls

Wesevich said one parent, a father from Guatemala, “does not know where (his daughter) is at all.”

A second parent, a Honduran mother of a 9-year-old son, has told the nonprofit that she believes her son has been moved to New York.

“She does not know where he is, except she believes that he is in New York while she is detained in El Paso, Texas,” according to court papers.

Since their separation, the mother has been allowed to speak with her son three times for about five minutes each time, according to court filings.

“He only asks when we will see each other again and begs to be with me,” the mother is quoted as saying in court documents.

“He is scared and lonely and desperate to be with me. I try to tell him everything will be OK and that I’ll see him soon but, the truth is, I don’t know what will happen with us.”

Immigration attorney Efren Olivares, with the Texas Civil Rights Project, answers a question during a news conference outside the Federal Courthouse, June 22, 2018, in McAllen, Texas.
Immigration attorney Efren Olivares, with the Texas Civil Rights Project, answers a question during a news conference outside the Federal Courthouse, June 22, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. VOA

The third parent, a Guatemalan mother of three sons, ages 2, 6 and 13, has been allowed to speak with them for 10 minutes two times each week.

“Of course her 2-year-old is unable to provide reliable information about his circumstances, and staff provide only general information to [her], nothing specific about her children’s well-being, which causes her anguish,” according to court papers.

The plaintiffs are seeking “frequent and meaningful access to or communication” with their children.

Also read: Donald Trump will soon end the DACA Programme-Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Programme for unregistered immigrants

The lawsuit, citing medical experts and court rulings, alleges that “forced separation traumatizes parents and children, and this trauma is compounded when parents and children are denied basic information about each other’s well-being and reunification prospects.” (VOA)

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OrchKids- Bringing Joy To Underprivileged Kids Through Music

Nema was accepted into the Baltimore School for the Arts where she now studies music.

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Jazz
Jazz is like the first dance music. Free dancing, where you show free expression. You throw your body but nobody is doing the same two steps

In Baltimore, a free after school music program called OrchKids is being used as an instrument of change for children in underprivileged neighborhoods. In the past 10 years, more than 1,300 children have received free group music lessons, and free instruments, from flutes to trumpets to violins.

The program was started by Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, who said OrchKids also aims to create social change in a city where about 40 percent of the population live in poverty. She hopes that if more children of color learn an instrument that “orchestras will better reflect the diversity of our communities.”

For 15 year old Nema Robinson, OrchKids has given her more opportunities than she ever imagined. Four years ago, the quiet teenager started taking the group violin lessons and quickly progressed.

Her teacher, Ahreum Kim, grew up in Korea and studied at the prestigious Peabody Institute in Baltimore.

“Nema’s determination has helped make her a top violin student” Kim said. “OrchKids is doing a lot for Nema, by giving her confidence, the practice of being in front of an audience, and musical skills she can be proud of,” she added.

music
Producing the Tanzania Albinism Collective Project allowed Ian Brennan to work with people who are not identified as musicians and are just waiting for a chance to be heard. VOA

Nema’s musical journey began when she and her mother, Susan Johnson, saw an OrchKids concert. Johnson was amazed to see black kids performing classical and opera music. “You just don’t see that,” she recalled thinking, “And I’m elbowing Nema and telling her, ‘This is what you should be doing.”

Nema enthusiastically agreed, and soon after started taking violin lessons that have given her the opportunity to play all kinds of music. She is especially proud of being a violinist in the Orchkids jazz band.

OrchKids has been instrumental in guiding many students, some from difficult backgrounds, by providing a place where they feel respected and safe.

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Google Doodle celebrating musician Clara Rockmore’s 105th birthday. Google

“Some of the students come into the class with baggage,” said Kim. “That could be due to poverty, or trouble at home. It is helpful when I learn about their families.”

Nema had a rough start in life as a drug addicted baby. With both her parents in prison, her aunt became her guardian and mother.

“She’s my number one supporter and has helped me a lot,” said Nema appreciatively. She pushes me. If it wasn’t for my mom I don’t think I would really be this good at playing the violin.”

Music
OrchKids has been instrumental in guiding many students.

Aside from the camaraderie and the encouragement that OrchKids provides, Nema also enjoys performing. I like seeing the audience, and their clapping and standing up after the performance,” she said. “It just makes my day.”

Thanks to her free violin lessons, Nema was accepted into the Baltimore School for the Arts where she now studies music.

Also Read: China Set To Spend Billionaire on ‘One Belt One Road’s, But Some Focus on Poverty

She hopes to earn a college degree in music so she can teach other black children, like herself, how to live their lives on a high note.

“It doesn’t matter what race you are, you can play music. If it’s your passion then it’s your passion,” Nema said with a smile. (VOA)