Five immigrants from El Salvador and Honduras are accusing the federal government of withholding information regarding their children’s whereabouts and forcing them to plead guilty in order to reunite with their families.
According to the criminal case records of these five Central American immigrants, they were arrested by Border Patrol agents in El Paso, Texas, on October 21 to 23. Minors who the immigrants claim to be their children were present when the arrests were made, with one Honduran national claiming a child taken into custody with her is her granddaughter.
The immigrants attempted to enter the country to seek asylum or refugee status, which the United States reserves for individuals unable to return home for fear of a credible threat.
Immigration agents separated the minors from the adults, placing the former under the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. According to the detained adults, however, they could no longer locate their children and grandchild after being forcibly separated from them.
Under the Obama administration, family members arrested by immigration authorities were kept together in detention. Upon release, they would be required to face immigration court but remain together.
President Trump and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, however, claim that such a scenario only incentivized foreigners to enter the country illegally, justifying their intent to end the practice in immigration enforcement. Sessions consequently demanded that prosecutors ramp up prosecutions for the misdemeanor crime of illegal entry.
Experts claim that such a measure is tantamount to a de facto policy of separating families. This is due to a 1997 federal settlement, now colloquially called the “Flores Agreement,” which requires the government to release minors from immigration jails as soon as possible.
The immigrant adults cited the Flores Agreement in court, pointing out that it requires undocumented immigrant minors to remain in the custody of their guardians when arrested together. They claim that such an agreement would call for their reunion with their children and grandchildren.
In addition, the five undocumented immigrants allege the US government for neglecting due process, forcing them to plead guilty in order for them to see their children again. In response, the government held fast to the position that reuniting the adults with their young would encourage illegal entry into the country.
In a brief opposing the group’s motion to dismiss, the Justice Department claims that “If granted, the relief the defendants’ request would have the disastrous effect of encouraging aliens to traffic or use children when making illegal entries into the United States.”
If you, or a loved one, are facing a similar immigration case, discuss your legal options with the immigration law experts of the Lyttle Law Firm. Find out how we can help you by calling our offices today at (512) 215.5225.