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U.S.A: Family Separation Trauma, Some Are Overcoming And Some Are losing

Separating families is part of the Trump’s administration Zero Tolerance policy

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Immigrants seeking legal entry into the United States in McAllen, Texas.
Immigrants seeking legal entry into the United States in McAllen, Texas. VOA

The moment Lucia’s children asked her for food and she did not have anything to give them, and no way to get it, was the last straw. Lucia decided to take on the journey to the United States.

“That was the hardest moment for me,” she told reporters on Tuesday after arriving at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.

Lucia is not her real name and though she wanted to tell her story, she still did not feel comfortable sharing her identity. Sitting next to the 21-year-old Guatemalan woman were her 3-year-old girl and 6-year-old boy. They had just been released from the McAllen Border Patrol Processing Center and were among of the group advocates are calling “the lucky ones.”

Separation anxiety 

Lucia told VOA that people in Central America understand how difficult the journey to the U.S. border is, but they are not expecting children being separated.

“I’ve had not heard about this and I believe it is unfair. Like I told [CBP officers] ‘if you’re going to separate me from my children, please deport me and don’t take my children away from me,’” she told VOA.

Separating families is part of the Trump’s administration Zero Tolerance policy under which those detained entering the United States illegally are being criminally charged, a policy that leads to children being separated from their parents because under U.S. law children cannot stay with a parent facing criminal charges.

Art Arthur with the hardline-on-immigration Center for Immigration Studies says the policy has a strategic aim: “It is a deterrent. The only way that we’ll really know whether it works is when we see the numbers for June, July and August.”

A mother seeking entry into the United States with her children in McAllen, Texas.
A mother seeking entry into the United States with her children in McAllen, Texas. VOA

Yellow envelopes

Lucia was not expecting that her children might be taken away from her. She was also not expecting to see some of the things she saw inside the detention center.

“There was a woman that she would wake us up to count us. Since it was so cold inside and some children were able to sleep, some mothers would get up and didn’t want to wake up the children,” Lucia said.

“So, the officer kept saying, ‘Wake your children’ and when the mothers did not do it, the officer would come and grab the children and said ‘Wake up and go with your mothers,’” the Guatemalan woman said.

However, she landed at the humanitarian center where immigrants can rest, take a shower, check email, and receive instructions on what to do next. They can also get in touch with family members and arrange to buy bus tickets and travel to their final destination in the United States.

People at the community center on Tuesday carried big yellow envelopes. Inside? Papers that indicate they have an appointment with immigration. The papers explain that once they attend this appointment, they will receive their court date and receive instructions on what to do until next time inside the immigration court.

At the first appointment with the immigration judge, they will be asked why they came to the United States illegally and if they have a credible fear of going back.

When people come to the U.S. seeking protection, they are permitted to file for asylum regardless of their immigration status. U.S. law offers asylum to those people facing persecution in their home countries on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular group.

Others are hoping to ask for temporary protection.

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director at the Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley.
Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director at the Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley. VOA

‘Lucky ones’

Fifty to 100 people arrive at the center almost every day. Lucia and the other families were released because of a discretionary decision among the Border Patrol, often because of the sheer volume of people being held at detention centers.

The discretionary enforcement decision allows Customs and Border Protection field supervisors to decide who they will stop, question, and arrest – and who they will release.

The ones at the center were released, not separated from their children, and given a chance to prove their credible fear case in an immigration court.

“This is a children’s crisis,” Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director at the Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley and one of the leaders inside the Humanitarian Respite Center, told VOA.

“They’re not criminals. No criminals. They’re children. They’re human beings. They’re families,” Pimentel said.

Migrants seeking to enter the United States.
Migrants seeking to enter the United States. VOA

Legal basis 

There is no law requiring the separation of immigrant families at the border, however, if people are caught crossing the U.S. border without authorization and between official ports of entry is a misdemeanor crime.

Charging someone under the federal criminal statute has been historically reserved for those who committed serious or heinous crimes or those with a vast criminal record.

“The previous administration was also very focused in deportation and also created a way to keep families from being released and put in family detention. This administration has focused more harshly in pushing back and send a deterrence message that really goes to the extreme,” Pimentel said.

And she doesn’t think the message is going to be heard.

“A mother that has a kid that is suffering, nothing will stop her from saving her son,” sister Pimentel said.

Pimentel’s Humanitarian Respite Center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. has assisted thousands of people and the Catholic sister has no plans in stopping the work.

Also read: Caravan migrants confused over next move at Mexico-U.S. border

“Every people that I am able to [I hope to help],” she said. (VOA)

Next Story

Global Judicial Executions Fell By One-Third In 2018, Reaching Lowest in A Decade

One case it highlighted was the execution of Zeinab Sekaanvand, who reported being a victim of domestic and sexual violence at the age of 17 in West Azerbaijan Province during her "grossly unfair trial" in West Azerbaijan Province.

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Hanging
Nooses are prepared ahead of a public hanging in Mashhad, Iran. RFERL

The number of known judicial executions around the world declined by nearly one-third in 2018 compared to 2017, reaching the lowest level in at least a decade, Amnesty International says in its annual report on death sentences and executions.

Belarus was among a handful of countries that defied the trend, the human rights group said in the report released on April 10: The only European state that carries out executions put at least four people to death in 2018, it said, twice as many as in 2017.

Although Iran remains “a country where the use of the death penalty is rife,” a change in Iran’s drug laws led to a reduction of executions by “a staggering 50 percent,” Amnesty International said.

Still, the rights group said, executions in Iran often “were carried out after unfair trials.”

It said Pakistan, Iraq, and Somalia also showed “a significant reduction in the number they carried out,” helping to push down the number of global state executions from at least 993 in 2017 to at least 690 in 2018.

“The dramatic global fall in executions proves that even the most unlikely countries are starting to change their ways and realize the death penalty is not the answer,””Amnesty International Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo said.

Arrest
The trend does not include figures from China,”the world’s leading executioner” where “figures thought to be in their thousands remain classified as a state secret,” Amnesty International said. RFERL

‘World’s Leading Executioner’

The trend does not include figures from China,”the world’s leading executioner” where “figures thought to be in their thousands remain classified as a state secret,” Amnesty International said.

The rights group said it recorded 253 court-ordered executions in Iran, the lowest number there since 2010.

It said 160 of the people executed in Iran — 155 men and five women — were convicted of murder.

Eighteen people executed by authorities in Iran in 2018 were convicted on charges of moharebeh, or “enmity against God,” including six cases related to “political activities.”

Among the “enmity” cases were the executions of ethnic Kurdish prisoners who received “grossly unfair trials” and were “denied access to their lawyers after being arrested” and claiming they had been tortured into making false confessions.

Another 14 people executed in Iran were convicted of “spreading corruption on earth,” the rights group said, noting that some of those cases involved “consensual same-sex sexual conduct.”

It said 28 executions in Iran involved rape cases, 25 were for drug trafficking, and one was for robbery. Five people were executed in Iran on charges that Amnesty could not confirm.

‘Public Hangings’

Unlike previous years, none of the executions in Iran were carried out in public by stoning. But at least 13 executions were public hangings, the report says.

One case it highlighted was the execution of Zeinab Sekaanvand, who reported being a victim of domestic and sexual violence at the age of 17 in West Azerbaijan Province during her “grossly unfair trial” in West Azerbaijan Province.

Amnesty said Sekaanvand was 17 when she was arrested for murdering her husband and had been “tortured by male police officers through beatings all over her body” for 20 days when she “confessed” to stabbing him in 2014.

Zeinab Sekaanvand
Zeinab Sekaanvand. RFERL

She later retracted her confession in court, saying that her husband’s brother had killed him and raped her. But Amnesty said the court failed to investigate her statements and relied, instead, on the “confessions” she had been forced to make under torture.

In Pakistan, Amnesty said, 14 men were known to have been executed by authorities in 2018, including one who was convicted by an antiterrorism court.

That represents a decline of 77 percent compared to 2017 and 86 percent compared to 2016, the report said.

At least four executions were recorded in Belarus in 2018, according to Amnesty International. It said that before two executions in Belarus in 2017, the last time another European country carried out executions was in 2005.

Two people executed in Belarus in 2018 were convicted murderers Alyaksey Mikhalenya and Viktar Liotau, who a fellow death-row inmate said were taken from their cells one night in May “and never returned,” according to the report.

The other two were Ihar Hershaskou and Syamyon Berazhnoy, who it said were executed “without prior notification” in November after being sentenced to death in July 2017 following convictions for murder, kidnapping, and other charges.

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Another 14 people executed in Iran were convicted of “spreading corruption on earth,” the rights group said, noting that some of those cases involved “consensual same-sex sexual conduct.” Pixabay

Amnesty said their cases were unique because the Belarusian Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of reviewing their trials following an appeal that cited alleged procedural violations, but upheld their death sentences in July 2018.

Also Read: Central Asia Sees Feminism Coming Back

Amnesty International also noted that the number of judicial executions in the United States increased from 23 in 2017 to 25 in 2018.

It said 13 of the executions carried out in the United States in 2018 were in the state of Texas. (RFERL)