A Honduran man who was separated from his 3-year-old son and detained in South Georgia amid the Trump administration’s crackdown on the southwest border was moved this week closer to the government shelter where his boy is being held in Arizona.
Jose — he asked that his full name not be published because he has received death threats in his homeland — was transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Eloy Detention Center in Eloy, Arizona, this week. His son is about 70 miles northwest in a government shelter in Glendale, Ariz. They have been separated for more than a month.
These developments come as the federal government is scrambling to comply with a federal judge’s sharply-worded order from last week and reunite more than 2,200 immigrant families who were separated during the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy. Judge Dana Sabraw of the U.S. District Court in San Diego has given the government 14 days to comply for children under 5.
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“The government has no system in place to keep track of, provide effective communication with, and promptly produce alien children,” the judge wrote in his order granting a preliminary injunction. “The unfortunate reality is that under the present system, migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property.”
Jose, a 27-year-old farmer, was transferred from Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., to the Folkston ICE Processing Center near the Georgia-Florida border. Then he was taken to a facility in Florence, Arizona, before he arrived in Eloy Monday, said his attorney, Peter Isbister. Isbister has asked ICE to release him so he can be reunited with his son while their asylum claim is being considered. He has an immigration court hearing scheduled for July 19.
“What is exactly going to happen? I am cautiously holding my breath they are just going to release the two of them in Arizona,” said Isbister, a senior lead attorney for Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative.
Honduran consular officials tracked Jose’s son to the government shelter in Glendale after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contacted them about his family’s situation. Last month, the Honduran consul general in Dallas received an email from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement that said the boy had been having weekly video conference calls with his mother, who remained behind in Honduras.
As he was being held in South Georgia, Jose told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he left Honduras with his son after receiving death threats from a member of a criminal group who killed two of his uncles and a cousin. Since 2010, Honduras has had one of the highest murder rates in the world, according to the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
First-time offenses for illegally crossing the border typically result in civil deportation hearings. But everyone caught illegally crossing the southwest border was being prosecuted under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy. A first-time offense is a misdemeanor that can carry up to six months behind bars. Jose has been arrested at the border and been deported previously. Illegally reentering the country after a deportation is a felony, which can be punishable with up to two years in prison. But Jose’s attorney said he and his son were detained and separated after they sought asylum at a legal port of entry in Hidalgo, Texas.
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