Take Action for Human Rights
Tell ICE: #FreeTheFamilies TOGETHER from Detention Now
Nearly a hundred families seeking safety in the U.S. from violence and persecution have been locked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the Berks family detention center in Pennsylvania and two detention facilities in Dilley and Karnes City, Texas.
Held indefinitely, they feel they are sitting ducks for COVID-19 as it runs rampant in family detention. A federal judge declared these facilities are “on fire” and ordered ICE to release all children, but doesn’t have the power to order the release of their parents. That’s where you come in: ICE will only release families together if they feel the cost of sustained outrage and pressure from activists like you.
RIGHT NOW, ICE has a choice: family unity or family separation. Instead of keeping families locked up indefinitely or asking parents if they want to separate from their children, it can do the right thing and free all families together. ICE has the legal authority to release families together and has historically done so.
These families carry a deep fear and anxiety — not knowing if they’ll be released or if they’ll contract COVID-19.
These families are just a few of the faces of ICE’s cruelty and disregard for the health and wellbeing of children and parents:
Marilin* (31) and Yunior* (11) were left with no choice but to leave Honduras to escape years of violence from Marilin’s ex-partner and an international criminal organization. In search of protection, they were thrown into Dilley and improperly subjected to Asylum Ban 2.0, which has since been struck down by two federal judges. Despite this fundamental unfairness, they are fighting to have their case reheard. Meanwhile, Marilin has ovarian cysts but has yet to be seen by a gynecologist. She is in so much pain she can’t wear pants that ICE issued her without suffering more. Yunior developed a stomach infection and lost so much weight he now weighs less than he did a year ago. Because of Marilin’s high blood pressure and prediabetes, she is at high risk of becoming gravely ill should she contract COVID-19. She feels chest pain near her heart and sometimes at night her whole body trembles. She is convinced she will die here and called her family to lay out a makeshift will and testament, to make sure someone will step up to care for her son if she dies.
Juana* (45) and Norma* (4) were forced to flee Honduras with Juana’s other daughter Paula* after gang members repeatedly threatened them with rape and murder. In search of protection, they came to the U.S. as a family to seek asylum, but were separated at the U.S. border. Paula was sent back to Mexico under the unlawful Remain in Mexico Policy. Nobody has heard from her, knows where she is, or what happened to her since. The uncertainty of Paula’s fate weighs heavily on Juana. After Juana and Norma were separated from Paula, they were thrown into Dilley and, like Marilin and Yunior, improperly subjected to Asylum Ban 2.0, which generally bars people who pass through a third country from seeking asylum in the U.S. unless they meet narrow exceptions. While Asylum Ban 2.0 has since been struck down by two federal judges, Juana and Norma, like Marilin and Yunior, are fighting to have their case reheard. Juana also suffers from joint pains that may be arthritic, high blood pressure, and obesity — making exposure to COVID-19 dangerously risky. The stress of it all has made her forgetful and lose a significant amount of weight. Norma has grown despondent, depressed, and constantly asks when they are getting out. Juana doesn’t know how to answer her anymore.
Ana* (22) and Victoria* (4) fled Honduras after repeated threats against their lives after her partner, Victoria’s father, was killed because of his political beliefs. They requested asylum in the U.S. over ten months ago and locked up ever since. Both spent both their birthdays behind bars. ICE was informed multiple times that Victoria is asthmatic and particularly at risk for COVID-19, but refuses to release them. Ana has been suffering from ovarian cysts that have pained her daily for months, and has not received the appropriate medical care. Ana is trying to stay strong for Victoria as she watches her daughter deteriorate in front of her: Victoria now has anxiety attacks, nightmares, and wets the bed—something she didn’t used to do. She’s also started pinching and biting herself, and chewing on her clothes. The Dilley psychologist told Ana this was “normal.” This time in detention has taken a severe toll on her daughter and stolen Victoria’s life in a way Ana never wanted or intended — she was just looking for a way to protect them from harm.
Ana, Marilin, and Juana spent holidays — from birthdays to New Years and Mother’s Day — behind detention walls. They have now faced an anniversary no parent would want: one year of lockup with their children Victoria, Yunior, and Norma, simply for seeking safety here in the United States.
All families needlessly held in detention must be immediately released together. They have communities waiting to welcome them, and there is no reason — especially during a pandemic — not to release children with their parents.