…An anguished Araceli Ramos Bonilla burst into tears, her face contorted with pain: “They want to steal my daughter!”
…She was arrested crossing the border into Texas and U.S. immigration authorities seized her daughter and told her she would never see the girl again. [emphasis: Peanut Gallery]
An Associated Press investigation drawing on hundreds of court documents, immigration records and interviews in the U.S. and Central America identified holes in the system that allow state court judges to grant custody of migrant children to American families — without notifying their parents. [emphasis: peanut gallery]
…States usually seal child custody cases, and the federal agencies overseeing the migrant children don’t track how often state court judges allow these kids to be given up for adoption. But by providing a child’s name and birthdate to the specific district, probate or circuit court involved, the AP found that it’s sometimes possible to track these children.
…Three days after [mother and child’s forced] separation, court records show, the U.S. government labeled [the child who had entered the country with her mother] an “unaccompanied minor,” which meant she entered the bureaucracy for migrant youth, typically teens, who arrive in the U.S. alone. The toddler was issued a notice to appear on “a date to be set, at a time to be set, to show why you should not be removed from the United States.”
…[The mother’s] case was assigned to Oakdale Immigration Court in Louisiana, where the three judges had denied 95 percent of all asylum requests that year, compared to the national average of about 50 percent. She said she called the list of pro bono lawyers she was provided, to no avail.
Without a lawyer, her chance at asylum slipped away. Like everyone else around her, she was being deported.
The federal government offers all deported parents the chance to take their children with them, but [the mother] said she was ordered to sign a waiver to leave [her child] behind. “The agent put his hand on mine, he held my hand, he forced me to sign,” she said.
…At the time, it was unusual for parents to be deported while their children remained behind in federal foster care, but that occurred again and again this summer. More than 300 parents were deported to Central America without their children this summer, many of whom allege they were coerced into signing paperwork they didn’t understand, affecting their rights to reunify with their children. Some parents also contended that U.S. officials told them their children would be given up for adoption.
“And the reality is that for every parent who is not located, there will be a permanent orphaned child, and that is 100 percent the responsibility of the administration,” U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said in August while overseeing a lawsuit to stop family separations.
…When [the agency] placed [the child] in the Barrs’ home, the couple signed a form promising they would not try to seek custody because the Office of Refugee Resettlement was legally responsible for the child. But eight months later, [high on their own self-importance and mired in what appears to be abject racism,] that is exactly what they did.
…”The Barrs obtained their temporary guardianship order in violation of federal law,” U.S. prosecutors argued. The Barrs’ attorney and the Michigan judge also violated federal law by seeking and granting guardianship, and failed to inform Ramos or Alexa’s lawyers about the proceedings, they wrote.
…Children traumatically separated from their parents are more likely to suffer from emotional problems throughout their lives, according to decades of scientific research. And some more recent studies have found that separation can damage a child’s memory.
Deported parents may lose kids to adoption, investigation finds