U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren visited the Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas on Sunday, only to find that parents are not being reunited with their children as promised, reports The Washington Post. Despite claims from the Department of Homeland Security that Port Isabel is the main center for reunification, a “visibly upset” Warren revealed otherwise.
The official DHS statement said the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has “dedicated the Port Isabel Service Processing Center as the primary family reunification and removal center for adults in their custody.” After spending two hours inside the facility, Warren said, “It’s clear they’re not running a reunification process here.” While at the facility, Warren spoke with immigration officials and nine detained mothers. After speaking to the mothers she said, “In every case, they were lied to. In every case, save one, they have not spoken with their children. And in every case, they do not know where their children are.”
The DHS claims that Port Isabel is where parents and children will be reunited, but the facility cannot house children. According to immigration attorney Jodi Goodwin, “Port Isabel is a prison and it absolutely has no infrastructure to hold children.” The Trump administration released a statement which read, “The United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families. This process is well coordinated.” However, this statement is also incorrect. Unaccompanied migrant children remain spread across the country in DHS shelters and foster care facilities. So far, locating children to reunite them with their parents has proven almost impossible and attorneys have not received assistance from the federal government. A senior administration official told The Post that officials never intended to send busloads of children to Port Isabel for a massive reunion. The official said the process will happen on an individual basis. Once a parent has lost their deportation case, they can ask for their child to join them before they are deported.
The reunification process recently became even more difficult because of a new agreement that requires the Office of Refugee Resettlement to share information with ICE and Customs and Border Protection. Basically, anyone who wants to take custody of a child from ORR, which is in charge of all migrant minors, has to submit fingerprints of all adults in the household to ICE. However, desperate parents will do anything at this point to be reunited with their children, a promise that they are quickly losing hope on.
Goodwin, who is currently working with detained parents at Port Isabel, revealed many parents are “being offered the choice to drop their asylum claims and accept deportation and then once they’ve accepted deportation they’ll get their children back.” This is ultimately resulting in parents choosing to drop their asylum claims, even if they left their country due to extreme violence, in a desperate act to be reunited with their children. A Washington-area immigration attorney who is working with parents at Port Isabel spoke about the violence that many immigrants faced in their home countries or on their trips to America. Despite this violence, many of them are still choosing to give up on seeking safety so as to be reunited with their children. She said, “We’ve heard stories of women being held captive, enslaved in cartel homes. And that’s secondary to that they don’t know where their child is.”