Since October, more than 700 migrant children have been taken from adults claiming to be their parents, including more than 100 children under age 4. U.S. officials said they were trying to protect children who may be victims of trafficking or exploitation, but migrant advocates argue it’s the latest attempt by the Trump administration to stop migrant families from seeking asylum.
A “zero tolerance” border enforcement policy that took effect last week and was announced Monday by Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions may result in families who illegally cross the border being separated after their arrest, with parents going to adult detention facilities and youths going to juvenile shelters.
…It’s difficult for migrants to assert parental rights. Many cross the border with their children’s birth certificates tucked in pockets or plastic bags. Agents often call local consulates to check families’ documents. But the documents can be faked, agents said. Even if consular staff verify them, agents may still challenge migrants’ claims to their children.
…Sometimes the adults are relatives — an aunt, grandparent or step-parent, she said.
…Maria Ramirez said the Border Patrol questioned her about her children, ages 17, 15 and 5. Agents didn’t believe she was their mother, even after she produced Honduran birth certificates, Ramirez said.
“They said they were fake,” she said. “They gave me the impression I would be deported and told me I had to sign the papers.”
Ramirez, 37, saw other parents at the processing center who were told the same thing. Unlike her, they had signed the paperwork and were deported.
Ramirez refused to sign deportation papers, insisting her children’s birth certificates were real. She and her 5-year-old son were held separately from her older daughters for five days, but were ultimately reunited.