A 3-year-old boy who was separated from his father amid enforcement of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” border policy has been located by Honduran consulate officials, who are seeking to reunite the two asylum-seekers, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
Jose, whose father asked that he and his son’s full names not be published because of the dangers they could face in their homeland, is being held in a government shelter in Glendale, Ariz., said Maria Fernanda Rivera, Honduras’ consul general in Atlanta. His father, also named Jose, is locked up in a federal immigration detention center in South Georgia, where he is awaiting the outcome of his asylum claim.
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The two have been separated for more than a month since they were arrested on the U.S.-Mexico border. The Honduran consulate in Texas tracked the boy to Glendale, Rivera said, and has contacted the shelter and the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement “so we can reunite the family ASAP.” The AJC contacted Rivera about Jose’s whereabouts last week before publishing an article about his family’s separation in the newspaper’s Sunday print edition.
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Jose, 27, said 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. Last month, Jose and his son were detained and then separated after seeking asylum at a port of entry in Hidalgo, Texas.
On Sunday, one of the attorneys helping Jose with his asylum case in Georgia welcomed the news that Honduran consulate officials had located his son and were seeking to reconnect them. But she wondered how that will happen, given that the father is being held in Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga.
“Until they release him from adult immigration detention, it’s unclear how they can make reunification happen,” said Michelle Lapointe, acting deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. “And that’s part of the larger issue of the two different federal agencies not coordinating and not communicating and that it takes individual advocates, lawyers or, in this case, the consulate of the immigrant’s home country to move things along.”
The Office of Refugee Resettlement, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, did not respond to a request for comment about Jose’s son Sunday. That agency is holding immigrant children in a network of about 100 shelters across 17 states. The one in Glendale, Ariz., is run by an Austin-based nonprofit called Southwest Key Programs, which also operates programs in Georgia and five other states. A spokesman for the nonprofit declined to confirm whether Jose’s son is at its Glendale center, citing privacy reasons. But he said Southwest seeks to immediately reunify families.
“As a licensed child care center,” Southwest Key spokesman Jeff Eller said in an email, “we provide every child with compassionate care, high quality and culturally appropriate meals, counseling and medical care.”
Meanwhile, the Trump administration on Saturday announced plans to reunite the more than 2,300 children who have been separated during the past two months because their parents have been prosecuted for illegally crossing the southwest border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it had reunited 522 of the children. As of Wednesday, 2,053 separated boys and girls were being held in federally funded shelters. More than four-fifths of them arrived in the United States without parents or guardians. The rest were separated because of the government’s decision to prosecute their parents. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has dedicated its Port Isabel Service Processing Center in Los Fresnos, Texas, as its primary family reunification and removal center.
“The United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. “This process is well coordinated.”
Also on Sunday, President Donald Trump said immigrants accused of illegally crossing the border should be removed without due process, including an appearance before an immigration judge.
“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country,” he said on Twitter. “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order.”
Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, called the president’s suggestion “illegal and unconstitutional.”
“Any official who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws,” he said, “should disavow it unequivocally.”